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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 is appealing that decision.

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 Governor Rendell in 2008; reappointed by Corbett in 2014
  • John Coleman: appointed by Rendell in 2010; reappointed by Corbett in 2012
  • Andrew Place: nominated by Wolf in 2015
  • Pamela Witmer: appointed by Corbett in 2011

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PUC steps up efforts to advocate for pipeline safety

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As Sunoco Logistics steps up efforts to create a pathway for its Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline across southern Pennsylvania, some landowners are resisting the company’s moves to build the pipeline across their properties. Residents in at least eight counties are rejecting the company’s offers of cash compensation as too low or unacceptable [...]

Wolf nominates EQT executive to Public Utility Commission

Governor Wolf has chosen EQT executive Andrew Place to serve as a commissioner on the state Public Utility Commission. Place is currently the corporate director for energy and environmental policy at EQT, where he focuses on Marcellus Shale natural gas development. Before joining the gas company in 2011, he worked on environmental issues for Carnegie [...]

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PUC rejects judges’ decision, orders hearings on Sunoco Logistics pipeline

The Public Utility Commission has ordered more hearings on Sunoco Logistics’ request to bypass local zoning to build structures for facilities along its 300-mile natural gas liquids pipeline. In a 4-1 vote Thursday, the PUC rejected a recommendation from its administrative law judges to dismiss the petition because the company is not a public utility. The commission [...]

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