Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Senate Passes PA One Call Pipeline Safety Bill, With Shale Gas, Not Conventional Gathering Lines

The Senate Wednesday unanimously passed Senate Bill 242 (Baker-R-Luzerne) that extends the PA One Call utility safety program to 2024 and adds unconventional natural gas gathering pipelines to the program, but continues an exemption for conventional oil and gas gathering lines (8 inches or less) serving small volume stripper wells.
PA One Call is a service to contractors who want to locate utilities and natural gas pipelines prior to digging foundations or other excavations that might hit those lines and cause service interruptions or explosions and death or injuries.
There are now an estimated unmapped 100,000 miles of natural gas pipelines in Pennsylvania vulnerable to hits from construction and digging equipment.
Prime sponsor Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) noted in a background memo on the bill there are more than 6,000 incidents of striking utility lines every year, with approximately half involving natural gas lines because facility owners do not join the PA One Call program or for other reasons.
“All of these instances jeopardize public safety, place workers at risk, compromise infrastructure, trigger outages, generate environmental hazards and cost consumers, businesses, and utilities time and money,” said Sen. Baker.  “Preventing this unnecessary damage will increase public safety and reduce costs.”
At a June 6 hearing by the House Consumer Affairs Committee, representatives of the conventional oil and gas well drillers said they cannot afford the cost of reporting the locations of their natural gas pipelines to PA One Call to prevent pipeline explosions and deaths.
The bill now goes to the House, which killed the addition of gathering lines in 2016.  A Senate Fiscal Note and summary is available.
(Photo: An example of what can happen when a backhoe hits a natural gas pipeline.)
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