Senate Panel Approves Bills to Expand Natural Gas Services
A pair of bills moving through the state legislature aim to give consumers more access to Pennsylvania’s abundant natural gas reserves.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) is the primary sponsor of Senate Bills 738 and 739. Although he lives in the midst of the Marcellus Shale drilling, he doesn’t have the option of natural gas service at his own home.
“Pennsylvania has one of the largest gas deposits in the world and the citizens can’t take advantage of it.”
Both bills were approved by the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy committee today. Yaw chairs the committee and says he hopes they come up for a vote in a the full chamber by next month.
Senate Bill 738, known as the Natural Gas Consumer Access Act, promotes the extension of gas lines to customers who would bear the cost themselves, over time. It requires natural gas utilities to submit a three-year plan to the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) for expansion projects to increase service.
Senate Bill 739 amends a 2008 law to promote alternative energy. The measure would shift $15 million out of a fund designed to promote high-efficiency or “green” buildings and use it instead for grants to help expand natural gas services to schools, hospitals, and small businesses.
Senator Jim Ferlo (D- Allegheny) objected to moving the money.
“You’re raiding a fund that, unfortunately, has not been effectively administered,” he told Yaw, “I’m loath to just give it out to the oil and gas industry.”
Yaw pointed out the fund has $25 million for green buildings, so his bill would still leave $10 million.
“The money has been in that fund since 2008, and it’s never been utilized,” said Yaw.
A spokeswoman for the PUC says the commission does not track whether consumers have access to natural gas, but they frequently get phone calls from people in urban and rural areas seeking gas services.
About half of all Pennsylvania households use natural gas for heating, followed by electricity and oil.