Legislative hearing focuses on expanding state oversight of pipelines
As the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry has grown, so has the need to build pipelines to transport it to markets. Chester County has become a natural nexus for pipelines, due to its proximity to the shale as well as heavily-populated areas along the East Coast.
Pennsylvania’s Joint Legislative Conservation Committee held a hearing today in Chester Springs to discuss ways to expand state oversight of pipelines.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D- Chester) has introduced a package of three bills aimed at improving transparency and protecting environment resources.
He says both residents and government officials often don’t get specific details about projects they are well underway.
“All we’re trying to do is make sure every township, every citizen, has information when it comes to the placing of pipelines,” he says.
Pipelines are currently governed by a byzantine set of regulations based on where they’re going and what they carry.
Safety issues are handled at the federal level by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is involved in siting the placement of interstate pipelines that cross state lines.
However, Pennsylvania currently lacks a single state agency dedicated to siting the placement of intrastate pipelines that remain within its borders. Ernie Holling, a supervisor for West Pikeland Township, Chester County thinks that should change.
“There needs to be a Commonwealth agency somewhere that speaks to these issues,” he told legislators. “We urge you to think strategically.”
The committee also heard testimony from representatives of East Brandywine Township, the Brandywine Conservancy, the Chester County Planning Commission, and the county’s Chamber of Business and Industry– all spoke to the need for more information about pipeline projects.
“We’re willing to work and cooperate for the greater good,” said Scott Piersol of East Brandywine Township. “But it’s difficult for municipalities to do that when you don’t have the information to analyze.”