Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Senate Bill Would Regulate Safety Of Over 3,600 Miles Of Gas Pipelines For 1st Time

There are now over 3,688.3 miles of Class 1 natural gas pipelines not regulated for safety by either the federal or state government, but Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) wants to change that.
On Monday she introduced Senate Bill 488 that for the first time would put Class 1 natural gas pipelines from unconventional drilling operations under the jurisdiction of the Public Utility Commission’s Gas Safety Division which regulates, inspects and enforces state and federal regulations as they apply to natural gas and hazardous liquids pipelines.
Class 1 pipelines are pipelines located in rural areas with 10 or fewer buildings intended for human occupancy.  They transport natural gas from a well site to a transmission or distribution line.
Since 2011, the number of miles of Class 1 unconventional gas pipelines more than doubled from 1,649.35 miles to 3,688.3 miles in 2015, according to the Public Utility Commission.  2016 numbers by operators are due to the PUC by March 31.
By contrast, the number of miles of Class 1 conventional gas pipelines declined from 5,257.12 miles in 2011 to 3,665.6 miles in 2015.
Sections of a single pipeline is often classified in several different classes depending on the areas it traverses along its route.  Pipelines are classified from 1 to 4 with Class 4 being pipelines in areas where buildings are 4 or more stories are prevalent.
The federal Office of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has elected not to regulate Class 1 pipelines based on its current risk assessment model.  Since they are not federally regulated, the PUC does not have any enforcement power over these pipelines in rural areas.
“Many of the Marcellus Shale gathering lines are located in Class 1 locations and thus exempt from PHMSA and PUC oversight,” said Sen. Baker.  “ Other states have imposed additional safety requirements on gathering lines, and at some point in the future PHMSA could exercise jurisdiction over Class 1 lines, but currently, they are unregulated.
“I believe the Commonwealth should have the authority to exercise safety jurisdiction over these lines which are prevalent in my Senate district and could be a risk to people, property and the environment,” added Sen. Baker.
Under the legislation, the PUC shall adopt regulations necessary to properly enforce the act including but not limited to requiring marking of lines and facilities, reporting incidents, minimum construction standards, recordkeeping, GIS mapping, leak detection standards and inclusion in PA One Call.
The bill also provides for penalties and assessments for the PUC’s cost of carrying out the responsibilities to enforce the law.
The PUC now regulates 47,000 miles of distribution lines and over 1,100 miles of intrastate transmission lines, conducting 2,200 inspections in 2016.
This legislation was introduced last session as Senate Bill 1044, but the bill never got out of the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.
Related Stories:
Sen. Baker Tries Again To Add Natural Gas Gathering Lines To One Call Safety Program

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