Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Topics

A natural gas pipeline in Lycoming County.

Your Guide to Pipelines in Pennsylvania

Background

Kim Paynter / WHYY/Newsworks.org

Workers prepare to lay a new Marcellus Shale gas pipeline in Susquehanna County, Pa.

Thousands of miles of new pipelines in Pennsylvania will have to be built to transport Marcellus Shale gas. The new pipeline construction will benefit those in need of jobs, and the companies that do the building. But some residents and local politicians worry about the environmental impacts, and say the current regulatory structure needs updating.

Nobody knows how many miles of pipeline already exists in the state. That’s because Pennsylvania does not have one regulatory authority that oversees intrastate gas pipelines. In fact, out of 31 states that produce natural gas, Alaska is the only other state, besides Pennsylvania, that doesn’t.

Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission does inspect about 46,000 miles of pipelines that are categorized as public utilities. That means those pipelines deliver gas directly to a consumer. The PUC has eight inspectors who enforce both state and federal regulations.

The federal government, through the Department of Transportation, regulates the interstate pipeline system. Those are the pipelines that travel across state boundaries. One example would be the Transcontinental Gas Pipeline, or Transco, which travels from south Texas to the major east coast markets of New Jersey and New York City.

Until recently, thousands of miles of what are called “gathering lines” did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission. And the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration did not have the resources to inspect them. PHMSA asked Pennsylvania to broaden the PUC’s jurisdiction to include these lines. That was also one of the recommendations made by the Marcellus Shale Commission.

In December, 2011, Gov. Corbett signed the Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipeline Act, also known as Act 127, which grants the Public Utilities Commission jurisdiction over most of the state’s 886 miles of intrastate pipelines. Rural pipelines, known as Class 1 are exempt from the PUC’s safety inspections. The PUC has hired five new inspectors and two supervisors. The Commission will also develop a registry of pipelines and their operators in the state.

To build a pipeline, rights of way need to be secured from private and public landowners. The companies pay for those rights of way. Then permits are needed. But a confusing network of regulatory bodies handles the permitting process. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has to approve any interstate pipeline. The Public Utilities Commission has to approve any that serve consumers directly. But few of the new gas lines connected to Marcellus Shale drilling fall neatly into either of those categories.

If the pipeline runs through wetlands or cross waterways, permits are needed from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Also, the DEP has oversight if the pipelines cross through areas with endangered or rare species. Sometimes county, or local, level regulations come into play, but not always. Pennsylvania’s new drilling law, ACT 13, restricted local governments from implementing zoning rules for natural gas development, including pipelines. But that provision is still tied up in the courts.

Latest Posts

UGI plans $150 million natural gas pipeline

UGI Energy Services announced today it plans to construct a new 35-mile, 20-inch gas pipeline through north-central Pennsylvania. The so-called Sunbury Pipeline would begin in Lycoming County and end at a proposed natural gas-fired power plant near Shamokin Dam, in Synder County. This announcement comes amid a flurry of other pipeline projects in Pennsylvania, as energy companies work [...]

As pipelines proliferate, Pennsylvania sees next phase of gas boom

The surge in drilling has meant trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are being pumped out of Pennsylvania every year. And now billions of dollars are flooding into the state for new pipeline projects to move that gas to market. It’s the next phase of the fracking boom: energy companies are building their own sort [...]

Constitution pipeline puts pressure on landowners

The Albany Times Union reports the developers of an interstate gas pipeline have sent letters to landowners along the route threatening to use eminent domain. Last week, federal regulators gave final approval to the Constitution pipeline. The 124 mile, 30-inch line will connect gas in Susquehanna County to existing transmission lines in New York. It will be [...]

Feds approve pipeline to bring Marcellus gas to New York, New England

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given the green light to a proposed interstate pipeline that would bring Marcellus Shale natural gas to markets in New York and New England, provided it meets certain environmental conditions. The Constitution project involves building 124 miles of new 30-inch-diameter pipeline, connecting gas production in Susquehanna County to existing transmission [...]

Report: lack of inspectors leaves gas line oversight to utilities

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review analyzed data on distribution lines that deliver natural gas directly to consumers, and found a lack of regulatory oversight. The task of tracking leaks and problems often falls to the utilities which own and operate the lines. Read the full report from the Tribune-Review here: A Tribune-Review investigation found that state and federal [...]

Delaware River Basin Commission to review proposed PennEast Pipeline

A stalemate over regulations at the Delaware River Basin Commission has prevented natural gas development in the watershed since 2010. But the multi-state commission will now play a role in whether a new Marcellus Shale gas pipeline can move forward. The proposed PennEast pipeline would cut under the Delaware River at Riegelsville, Bucks County to bring [...]

Pipeline conference planned for State College next week

A one-day conference next week will focus exclusively on the midstream side of the natural gas business. The first annual Midstream PA conference is co-hosted by Penn State and Shale Directories. It will be held next Tuesday at the Penn Stater in State College and bring together some of the biggest midstream companies and drillers in the [...]

Electric rates to spike in New England, despite nearby Marcellus gas

Residents in New England are looking at skyrocketing electricity prices this winter, largely due to an increased reliance on natural gas and pipeline constraints. Utilities in the region are projecting rate hikes in the range of 30 to 50 percent, which will make the prices some of the highest in the United States. From NPR [...]

PennEast pipeline opposition grows in New Jersey

Kristin McCarthy, a township committeewoman in Delaware, NJ, has one request for voters this Tuesday. “I’m asking people not to vote for me,” she said. McCarthy wants to step down from local government to devote more time to fighting the PennEast pipeline, which would bring natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in northeast Pennsylvania to [...]

Constitution pipeline clears major regulatory hurdle

A proposed interstate gas pipeline designed to bring Marcellus Shale gas to markets in New York and New England has cleared a major regulatory hurdle. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which oversees interstate pipelines, concluded in an Environmental Impact Statement Friday that the project would have “some adverse environmental impacts” but that they would be [...]

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education