Thursday, September 8, 2022

House Environmental Committee To Hold Sept. 20 ‘Wellhead To Stovetop’ Hearing On Natural Gas In PA; Will They Mention $70 Million In Pipeline Penalties Assessed So Far?

On September 7, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, Majority Chair of the House Environment Resources and Energy Committee, announced a September 20 “Wellhead to Stovetop - Conveying Energy in PA” hearing on natural gas and pipelines in Pennsylvania.

This is another in a series of hearings Republicans on the Committee have held on issues surrounding natural gas infrastructure and “unleashing” the natural gas industry.

In a March hearing, Rep. Metcalfe said--

“I think this NIMBY attitude that occurs with pipelines going through New York or with facilities being located in Philadelphia, the not in my backyard people, I think they ought to be run over with policy changes by the federal government and state government that are in the best interest of the citizens of this nation and best interest of our national security.

“This is a national security issue, but NIMBYs should have no input on not allowing this in their backyard when it's a viable alternative just 'cause they don't want it there.”  Read more here.

The Committee held the last general hearing August 17, 2021 on “environmental and economic benefits of pipelines” and failed to even acknowledge the over $55 million in penalties imposed by DEP and the Public Utility Commission for violating environmental, health and safety laws and regulations between 2016 and 2021.  Read more here.

Since then, Energy Transfer/Sunoco were convicted of criminal charges related to the construction of Mariner East 2 and Revolution natural gas/liquids pipelines in Pennsylvania. Part of the August 5, 2022 settlement requires the company to pay $10 million toward local projects to improve healthy and safety or water sources along the pipeline routes.  Read more here.

Sunoco was also penalized $4 million by DEP on December 6, 2021 for damages related to a Mariner East Pipeline construction spill into Marsh Creek Lake in Marsh Creek State Park in Chester County.  Read more here.

Energy Transfer Partners was fined $1 million by the Public Utility Commission for the 2018 explosion of the brand new Revolution Pipeline in Beaver County on November 18, 2021.  Read more here.

So as of now, major pipelines have been penalized a total of over $70 million in Pennsylvania for environmental, health and safety violations and convicted of criminal charges related to their construction since 2016.

Strengthening Pipeline Regulation

Earlier this year, the Public Utility Commission invited the public to submit comments on how to strengthen the PUC’s regulations on natural gas, hazardous liquid pipeline safety.

DEP and others submitted comments and some groups, like unions, opposed any new regulations.  Read more here.

Many were surprized to learn natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline companies are not required to have basic insurance or financial assurance in place to cover property damage, bodily harm and environmental cleanup if a leak or explosion happens.  Read more here.

There have been many House and Senate hearings on strengthening state law to deal with the very real issues surrounding pipeline construction and location, but nothing has come of them other than to further document how inadequate the laws are.  Read more here.

Large-Scale Industrial Process

It is important to understand natural gas development from wellhead to stovetop is a large-scale industrial process spread out over rural Pennsylvania.

Brian S. Schwartz, M.D., Professor of Environmental Health and Engineering, Epidemiology and Medicine at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Geisinger Medical said it best in a June 2, 2022 Senate hearing--

“This industry is a large-scale industrial engineering project that involves a number of impacts on communities and their environments. 

“It involves many steps over time, clearing land, building roads, preparing the surface, bringing in chemicals and large volumes of water, bringing in large and heavy equipment like drilling engines and compressor engines. 

“Then drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Receiving returned liquids and processing them at the surface. Receiving and processing gas at the surface. 

“Sending the gas through pipelines. And also a disposing of the waste stream. 

“And this requires monitoring of the safety of all of these steps.”  Read more here.

It can also be described as an industrial machine moving across the Pennsylvania countryside that is changing the landscape in very fundamental ways.  Read more here.

Unleashing Gas Industry

In March, House Republicans proposed a series of bills to expand natural gas drilling, subsidize pipeline expansion, automatically approval well permits and preempting local government regulation of natural gas infrastructure.  Read more here.

They said they were proposing the legislation in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but in reality the measures were part of a long-standing “wish list” by the natural gas industry.  Read more here.

Republicans on the House Environmental Committee moved several of those bills out to the full House in April for consideration.  Read more here.

House Republicans have also proposed a series of bills to “unleash” the natural gas industry earlier this year.  Read more here.

Hearing Location

The hearing will be held in Room G-50 of the Irvis Building starting at 9:00 a.m.  Click Here to watch online.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1707 or sending email to: Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7647 or sending email to:

(Photos: Natural Gas Infrastructure- Top- Shale Gas Drill Pad (FracTracker); Drill pad at end of drilling (Bobscaping Blog); Middle- Pipeline Compressor Station (Bobscaping Blog); Pipeline construction in Lancaster County (; Revolution pipeline and MarkWest gas processing plant (Bobscaping Blog); Bottom- Revolution Pipeline explosion site; Greene County well explosion; Mariner East 2 construction spill into Marsch Creek State Park Lake. Click Here for gas infrastructure flyover video from Allegheny and Washington counties.)

Related Articles This Week:

-- Exceptional Value Water Quality Designation, State Forest Land, River Honors Were Not Enough To Protect Loyalsock Creek From Natural Gas Drilling & Pipelines In Lycoming County - By Friends Of The 'Sock   [PaEN]

-- Natural Gas, Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Are NOT Required To Carry Insurance Or Show They Can Pay For Damages If They Explode, Leak Or Kill Someone  [PaEN]

-- Center For Coalfield Justice Hosts Oct. 5 Public Meeting On PA Health Studies Of Natural Gas Development In Southwest PA  [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Natural Gas Companies Accelerating Pace Of Abandoning Wells Without Plugging Them Threatening To Put PA’s Taxpayer-Funded Well Plugging Program Even Further Behind  [PaEN]

Related Articles:

-- Natural Gas, Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Are NOT Required To Carry Insurance Or Show They Can Pay For Damages If They Explode, Leak Or Kill Someone  [PaEN]

-- Senate Budget Hearings: PA’s Experience With New Pipeline Construction Shows State Laws Not Strong Enough To Prevent Environmental Damage, Protect Public Safety  [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Natural Gas Drilling: An Industrial Machine Moving Across The PA Countryside Leaving Behind Big Liabilities & Spreading Pollution Everywhere It Goes  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: PA’s Natural Gas Boom - What Went Wrong? Why Does It Matter?  What Can We Do Better To Protect Public Health?  [PaEN]

-- Senate Hearing: Body Of Evidence Is 'Large, Growing,’ ‘Consistent’ And 'Compelling' That Shale Gas Development Is Having A Negative Impact On Public Health; PA Must Act  [PaEN]

-- AG Shapiro: Energy Transfer/Sunoco Convicted Of Criminal Charges Related To Construction Of Mariner East 2 & Revolution Natural Gas/Liquids Pipelines In PA  [PaEN]

-- Sunoco/Mariner East Pipeline To Pay $4 Million In Damages And Restore Lake At Marsh Creek State Park Polluted By A Spill In Chester County  [PaEN]

-- PUC Imposes $1 Million Penalty On Energy Transfer Company For 2018 Revolution Pipeline Explosion In Beaver County  [PaEN]

-- Republican Chair Of House Environmental Committee Believes Opponents Of Natural Gas Infrastructure Projects ‘Just Need To Be Ignored And Politically Ran Over’  [PaEN]

-- Republican House Bill Contains Natural Gas Industry Wish List Of Measures To Expand Natural Gas Drilling, Subsidize Pipeline Expansion, Automatically Approve Well Permits, Preempt Local Governments [PaEN]

-- House Environmental Committee Fails To Discuss Poor Compliance, Record $55 Million In Penalties Imposed On Natural Gas/Hazardous Liquid Pipelines In Last 5 Years  [PaEN]

[Posted: September 8, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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