Friday, February 8, 2019

Gov. Wolf: Urges General Assembly To Fill Gaps In State Regulation Of Pipelines

On February 8, Tom Wolf released the following statement in response to the Department of Environmental Protection’s suspension of review of all clean water permit applications and other pending approvals associated with the Energy Transfer, L.P., Sunoco and other subsidiaries until further notice due to non-compliance:
“The Department of Environmental Protection has acted swiftly and decisively to hold this operator accountable to the conditions of its permits.
“The permit bar by the Department of Environmental Protection is the latest step my Administration has taken to ensure pipeline operators and builders are accountable for the work they do in Pennsylvania.
“There has been a failure by Energy Transfer and its subsidiaries to respect our laws and our communities. This is not how we strive to do business in Pennsylvania, and it will not be tolerated.”
The permit bar will affect the in-service date for the Revolution pipeline, which is currently not in service, and the Mariner East 2 pipeline. There are 27 approvals currently under review by DEP for Mariner East 2. The Revolution pipeline will remain closed until full compliance has been achieved.
PUC Action
In addition to the permit bar, the governor called on the Public Utility Commission to continue to hold Energy Transfer (ET) and its subsidiaries accountable to stringent safety requirements which the PUC is charged with enforcing.
The governor noted that the budget he proposed earlier this week funds four new gas safety inspectors at the Public Utility Commission’s Pipeline Safety Division to increase the PUC’s capacity to hold pipeline operators accountable and ensure all safety requirements are strictly enforced.”
“Today, I am calling upon the Public Utility Commission to compel ET to address lapses in communication by immediately providing county and municipal agencies responsible for public safety along the Mariner East Project route any and all information required under state and federal law to enable the preparation of robust emergency preparedness and communication plans. I have directed the Pennsylvania’s Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) to coordinate with county and local leadership to assist with review of emergency management plans, and this engagement has already begun.”
“I am also calling upon the PUC to require that a remaining life study of Mariner East 1 be completed and reviewed by independent experts. Such a study should thoroughly evaluate the safety of the existing pipeline and prepare a plan to implement the findings of that study as soon as possible.
State agencies have provided unprecedented oversight over the Mariner East Project, issuing more than 80 violations and levying nearly $13 million in penalties. The Department of Environmental Protection has also implemented significant new processes as a result of the experience gained on a project of unprecedented scope and impact including:
-- Improved coordination with the PUC and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC);
-- Improved internal coordination and implementation through the establishment of a Regional Pipeline Permitting Coordination Office;
-- And the development of new permit conditions and policy guidelines for future pipeline development projects including more than 100 special permit conditions.
Legislative Action
Finally, the governor has called on the General Assembly to address gaps in existing law which have tied the hands of the Executive and independent agencies charged with protecting public health, safety and the environment, calling for the speedy passage of the following legislation to protect the public:
-- Pipeline Siting: No state agency currently has authority to review intrastate pipeline routes, which can result in pipeline companies deciding to site through densely populated high-consequence areas. Many states have passed legislation providing an enhanced role in siting decisions to their utility or public service commission. Legislation should provide the Public Utility Commission with authority to regulate siting and routing of intrastate pipelines in Pennsylvania.
-- School Emergency Information: Currently, pipeline operators are not required to provide information to schools which are in close proximity to a pipeline, including how to respond to a leak. Legislation should require this information for schools within 1,000 feet of a pipeline.
-- Coordination Of Local Emergency Response: Related legislation should require public utility facilities transporting natural gas or natural gas liquids to meet with the county emergency coordinator entrusted to respond in the event of natural gas release and provide vital emergency response and evacuation information.
-- Automatic Shutoff Valves: In order to respond to a potential leak, automatic or remote shutoff valves are critical. Legislation should require the installation of such valves in high consequence areas in compliance with federal requirements for transmission line valves.
Many of these proposals are included in the bipartisan package of pipeline legislation introduced on February 7 by Senators Andy Dinniman (D-Chester), Tom Killion (R-Delaware)  and other Senators--
-- Pipeline Land Agents: Senate Bill 257 (Dinniman-D-Chester, Killion-R-Delaware) regulation of pipeline land agents (sponsor summary).
-- Pipeline Emergency Notification: Senate Bill 258 (Dinniman-D-Chester, Killion-R-Delaware) further providing for emergency notification requirements in the event of a pipeline incident (sponsor summary).
-- Landowner Bill Of Rights: Senate Bill 259 (Dinniman-D-Chester) providing for a landowner bill of rights related to pipeline eminent domain actions (sponsor summary).
-- Notification Requirements For Schools: Senate Bill 260 (Dinniman-D-Chester, Killion-R-Delaware) establishing specific notification and emergency information sharing requirements for schools near pipeline rights-of-way (sponsor summary).
-- Pipeline Emergency Response Fund: Senate Bill 261 (Dinniman-D-Chester, Killion-R-Delaware) authorizing counties to impose a fee on pipelines to establish local Pipeline Emergency Response Funds (sponsor summary).
-- Pipeline Siting Review: Senate Bill 262 (Dinniman-D-Chester, Killion-R-Delaware) requiring the Public Utility Commission to review the siting of certain pipelines in consultation with the Department of Environmental Protection (sponsor summary).
-- Pipeline Value Placement: Senate Bill 263 (Dinniman-D-Chester, Killion-R-Delaware) setting standards for the placement of pipeline safety valves (sponsor summary).
-- Local Taxation Of Pipelines: Senate Bill 264 (Dinniman-D-Chester) making natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines subject to taxation by local governments and school districts (sponsor summary).
Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) has scheduled a rally for pipeline safety in the Capitol Rotunda March 19 starting at 10:00 a.m. in support of the pipelines bills he and others introduced last week.
Governor’s Pipeline Task Force - 2016
In February 2016, the Pipeline Task Force presented a series of 184 suggestions to Gov. Wolf to help Pennsylvania achieve responsible development of natural gas pipeline infrastructure in the state.  Among the recommendations were--
-- Plan, site and route pipelines to avoid/reduce environmental and community impacts
-- Amplify and engage in meaningful public participation
-- Establish early coordination with local landowners and lessors
-- Educate landowners on pipeline development issues
-- Develop long-term operations and maintenance plans to ensure pipeline safety and integrity
-- Train emergency responders
-- Enhance emergency response training for responder agencies
-- Employ construction methods that reduce environmental impact
-- Minimize impacts of stream crossings
-- Ensure adequate agency staffing for reviewing pipeline infrastructure projects
Click Here for a copy of the report.

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