Wednesday, February 28, 2024

PA Environmental Groups: New PUC Rules, DEP Guidance Victory For Increased Safety In Pipeline Construction And Operation

Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and Mountain Watershed Association announced new regulations and guidance covering the construction of natural gas and related hazardous liquids pipelines will take effect in Pennsylvania.

The new requirements stem from the unprecedented litany of serious violations committed by Sunoco/Energy Transfer in constructing the cross-state Mariner East Pipelines resulting in over $42 million in penalties.  Read more here.

On February 24, the Department of Environmental Protection published the final guidance on using underground boring technology (“trenchless” technology) such as horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to build gas pipelines and other underground utilities.  Read more here.

The guidance lays out a roadmap to less-risky pipeline construction practices. The guidance stems from a legal appeal of Mariner East II pipeline permits by Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and Mountain Watershed Association. 

Also announced last week, the Public Utility Commission released a final rulemaking intended to improve safety in the construction and operation of pipelines, such as the Mariner East pipelines, transporting hazardous liquids through Pennsylvania.  Read more here.

Hazardous liquids pipelines will now be subject to Pennsylvania-specific regulations as well as federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) regulations. 

These new regulations come after an in-depth review of pipeline safety measures in Pennsylvania, prompted in part by a lawsuit filed by residents before the PUC.

 The “Safety 7” lawsuit alleged that the safety risks associated with the Mariner East pipelines violated residents’ rights. 

Clean Air Council filed as an intervenor in safety-related cases before the PUC, and supported residents in their advocacy efforts to gain greater public safety protections. The new regulatory framework corrects some of the prior loopholes and lessens the risks to residents of the Commonwealth.

“DEP’s trenchless technology guidance and the PUC’s hazardous liquids safety rule are some of the strongest and most protective in the country when it comes to safeguarding the public and the environment,” said Alex Bomstein, Clean Air Council Legal Director. “Our commonwealth is overdue for these protections as fracking runs rampant and the industry clamors for more pipelines for transport. The Council will continue to watchdog the gas industry and ensure that these rules are followed and the public is protected.” 

"Because Mariner East largely does not transport gas for energy production but "natural gas liquids," which are used mostly for plastic production, it fell outside of many of the rules governing gas lines,” said Melissa Marshall, Mountain Watershed Association Community Advocate. “This lack of oversight caused countless harms and we hope this guidance will prevent such catastrophic damage in the future."

Delaware County resident Rosemary Fuller, who was involved in the Safety 7 case, stated that, “hazardous liquid pipelines put residents at risk, especially when they run through densely populated areas, next to schools and hospitals, or through areas where residents source their drinking water from private wells, which are impacted by HDD drilling. The DEP and PUC rulemaking is long overdue, and these new regulations must be strictly enforced.” 

Latest Spill - Marsh Creek

The latest spill on the Mariner East pipeline system was reported this week in Marsh Creek State Park in Chester County where drilling fluid used during construction of the pipeline once again rose up in a wetland and flowed into a tributary to Marsh Creek Lake.  Read more here.

“This is just one example of how the damage to the environment doesn’t end when the drilling ends,” said Chester County resident Christina DiGiulio, “these corporations need to be held fully responsible for their crimes.” 

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- PA Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Feb. 24 to March 1 - 11 More Abandoned Conventional Wells; Field Of Leaking Wells; Voluntary Plugging; No Cleanup Progress In Reno Spill [PaEN]

-- Latest DEP Inspection Shows No Progress By Petro Erie In Cleaning Up The Conventional Oil Well Wastewater Spill That Contaminated The Village Of Reno’s Water Supply In Venango County 6 Months Ago  [PaEN] 

-- DEP: Clay-Like Material Polluting Marsh Creek Is Not Bentonite From Mariner East Pipeline Construction, But Naturally Occuring; Sunoco Cleanup Operation Finished  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - March 2 [PaEN]

-- 40 Individuals File Appeals, Most Handwritten, Of DEP’s Permit For Catalyst Energy Oil & Gas Wastewater Injection Well In McKean County  [PaEN]

-- EPA Appeals Board Allows Protect PT, Three Rivers Waterkeeper Appeal Of Penneco Oil & Gas Wastewater Injection Well Permit In Allegheny County To Move Forward  [PaEN]

-- Incomplete Application For CNX Midstream Slickville Fracking Wastewater, Natural Gas Pipelines Project In Westmoreland County Withdrawn By DEP  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Posted 64 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In March 2 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]

Related Articles This Week - Gas:

-- DEP: Oil & Gas Regulatory Program Will Be In The Red By Fall; All Sectors Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program No Go; Update On Permitting Reform  [PaEN]

-- PA Utility Law Project March 15 Webinar On Impacts Of LNG Gas Exports On Energy Costs For Pennsylvania Families; LNG Export Capacity To Double, Even With Permit Pause  [PaEN] 

-- Bloomberg: Gov. Shapiro Calls On Biden To Keep Pause On Permits For New LNG Gas Export Facilities Short  [PaEN] 

-- PA Environmental Groups: New PUC Rules, DEP Guidance Victory For Increased Safety In Pipeline Construction And Operation  [PaEN]

-- Chemstream Chemical Maker Agrees To Disclose Information About Its Proprietary Chemicals Used In Natural Gas Drilling  [PaEN]

-- IFO Reports 2023 PA Natural Gas Production Up 1.0% Over 2022, Thanks To Strong Q4 Production; Fewest New Wells Drilled In Last Decade  [PaEN]


-- Spotlight PA: Federal Money Supercharged PA’s Plugging Of Dangerous Conventional Oil & Gas Wells, But Critics Want More Oversight

-- Guest Essay: The Conventional Oil And Gas Industry Isn't Taking Responsibility For Their Wells - By Rep. Greg Vitali, Majority Chair, House Environmental Committee  [PaEN]

-- Q/A With House Environmental Committee Majority Chair Greg Vitali

-- Q/A With Senate Environmental Committee Majority Chair Gene Yaw

-- WESA: Republican US Senate Candidate Says Less Red Tape, More Natural Gas Are Key To PA’s Economic Future

-- Q&A With Michael Huwar, Peoples Gas - ‘Regulatory And Legislative Efforts Must Support The Natural Gas Industry

-- The Allegheny Front - Reid Frazier: Permit Application For CNX Pipeline Project In Westmoreland County Withdrawn, Lacked Wildlife Permits

-- PA Business Report: Chemstream Announces Radical Transparency Fracking Chemical Compliance Initiative

-- TribLive: Murrysville Officials OK Olympus Energy Project For 2 Fracking Water Pipelines, 2 Natural Gas Pipelines In Westmoreland 

-- MCall: Gas Leak Reported In Hellertown, Northampton County Prompting Evacuations  

-- PUC Reminder Of Opportunities To Comment On Proposed 18.7% Peoples Natural Gas Rate Increase 

-- Pittsburgh Business Times: Panel: Washington County State Of The Economy Explores Impacts Of ARCH2 Hydrogen Projects

-- Reuters: European Union Receives Bids For Nearly 3 Times The Volume Of Gas They Need 

-- Bloomberg: Qatar Has Eyes On More Long-Term Deals As It Bets Big On LNG Gas

-- Financial Times: Oil And Gas Industry Profits Triple Under Biden, Even As Industry Decries Him

[Posted: February 28, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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