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Natural gas prices are down, thanks largely to Marcellus Shale drilling

"Calling the balls and strikes" -- the Public Utility Commission

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Natural gas prices are down, thanks largely to Marcellus Shale drillingGetty ImagesNatural gas prices are down, thanks largely to Marcellus Shale drilling

If it comes into your house in a wire or a pipe, chances are the Public Utility Commission regulates it.

The five-member panel oversees Pennsylvania’s gas, electric, water and wastewater utilities. It also regulates telephone providers. According to its website, the PUC oversees more than 6,000 different utilities, approving rates, service plans and safety issues.

On the natural gas front, the commission oversees Pennsylvania’s gas pipelines and “regulates natural gas distribution company rates and service, investigates gas cost rates, and encourages the development of competitive supply markets.”

The natural gas impact fee signed into law in February 2012 empowers the PUC to oversee and collect Marcellus Shale impact fee revenue.

The law also gave the commission power to decide whether or not municipal drilling regulation and zoning is “reasonable,” and within the standards of the statewide standards laid out by the law. At the time, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, who shaped the majority of the impact fee, said he envisioned the commission serving as an umpire, “calling the balls and strikes” of whether local regulations fit within the law’s framework. However, in July 2014, the state Commonwealth Court stripped the agency of that authority. The PUC appealed the decision but ultimately lost.

The commission’s members are appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate. They serve five-year terms. Current members:

  • Gladys Brown: appointed by Corbett in 2013; appointed chair by Governor Wolf in 2015
  • Robert Powelson: appointed by Rendell in 2008; reappointed by Corbett in 2014
  • John Coleman: appointed by Rendell in 2010; reappointed by Corbett in 2012
  • Andrew Place: appointed by Wolf in 2015
  • David Sweet: appointed by Wolf in 2016

Latest Posts

Amid criticism, utility regulator walks back ‘jihad’ remark

One of Pennsylvania’s top utility regulators is walking back controversial remarks he made about pipeline opponents at a gas industry conference this week. Speaking at the Upstream PA conference Tuesday, state Public Utility Commissioner Robert Powelson said people opposing pipeline projects are engaged in a “jihad” to keep natural gas from reaching new markets. He now [...]

Sunoco rejects township’s Mariner East complaint to PUC

Sunoco told the Public Utility Commission that its actions regarding a section of the Mariner East 1 pipeline does not subject residents of a Chester County township to “clear and present danger.” The township had filed a complaint with the PUC alleging the company violated an agreement over the installation of a valve for its [...]

Reports: Trump considers PUC Commissioner Powelson for federal post

Multiple news outlets are reporting President Donald Trump is considering tapping Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner Robert F. Powelson for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The five member independent commission oversees the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. Since February it’s had three vacancies and is unable to advance projects without a quorum. Bloomberg also [...]

State lawmakers discuss ways to improve pipeline safety

State lawmakers, regulators, oil and gas industry representatives, and concerned citizens discussed ways to improve pipeline safety at a joint committee hearing Wednesday, following a building boom of new projects and several recent incidents in Pennsylvania including one work accident that killed a man and a pipeline explosion that left another man severely burned. “When everything’s [...]

Advocates urge last-minute vote to save PA pipeline safety law

An effort to preserve and expand a Pennsylvania law designed to protect underground pipes and cables from accidental damage by construction work has almost run out of time in Harrisburg. A state bill to amend the Underground Utility Line Protection Act was on Wednesday, still due for consideration by a Pennsylvania House committee, this just [...]

Attorney for PUC says “small cadre” trying to kill gas industry

*This story has been updated with a comment from the PUC. A private practice attorney representing the Public Utility Commission before the Supreme Court in the Robinson Township case, has told a Pittsburgh newspaper that he was discouraged by the court’s decision to toss aspects of the state’s oil and gas law saying “there’s an [...]

Commonwealth court upholds eminent domain in Sunoco pipeline case

A state appeals court dealt a blow to property owners fighting eminent domain takings by Sunoco Logistics on Thursday. Commonwealth Court ruled that in the case of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, Sunoco is a public utility subject to regulation by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which it says granted the company a certificate of [...]

Appeals court clears way for eminent domain suit against Sunoco Logistics

A Pennsylvania appeals court on Wednesday rejected an attempt by Sunoco Logistics to throw out a challenge to its planned Mariner East 2 pipeline, clearing the way for the environmental group Clean Air Council to argue against the company’s use of eminent domain to build the pipeline. The Commonwealth Court denied the company’s request for [...]

Wolf’s energy advisor moves to the Public Utility Commission

Governor Wolf’s energy advisor has a new job. David Sweet, appointed by Wolf to help foster energy related manufacturing in the state will be the newest member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. It’s unclear whether Wolf plans to replace Sweet with a new energy advisor. Sweet did not have a high public profile in [...]

Quaker group says North Philly solar panels could meet PECO power target this year

Solar power advocates are urging southeastern Pennsylvania’s biggest utility to boost its use of solar-generated electricity by buying from potential installations on the rooftops of North Philadelphia. About 40 supporters of the Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) gathered in the lobby of PECO’s Philadelphia headquarters on Wednesday to urge officials to support one of the [...]

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