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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

Mariner East 2 pipeline completion delayed again

Sunoco Pipeline’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, said Wednesday that its Mariner East 2 pipeline will be put into service in the second quarter of 2018, some 18 months later than originally planned, because of delays caused by Pennsylvania regulators. Chief Financial Officer Tom Long said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call that the project [...]

PUC’s West Goshen ruling cheers advocates for local control over pipelines

Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission halted Sunoco’s plans to build a valve for its Mariner East 2 pipeline in Chester County’s West Goshen Township, raising questions about whether the massive cross-state project will be completed on time, and encouraging advocates for local control over gas development. The commission voted unanimously on Thursday to uphold a judge’s [...]

FERC not a rubber stamp, says new commissioner

Rob Powelson, a commissioner with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently appointed by President Donald Trump, defended FERC’s track record with interstate pipeline projects. Pipeline opponents say FERC is a captured agency that does not look critically at industry proposals. “I take exception to people who say we rubber stamp projects,” Powelson told StateImpact [...]

Judge halts all drilling on Mariner East 2 construction

A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday ordered a two-week halt to all drilling for the construction of the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline after dozens of water contamination incidents and several environmental violations by the builder, Sunoco Pipeline. Judge Bernard Labuskes of the Environmental Hearing Board suspended drilling until August 7 when a state court will [...]

Judge halts Mariner East 2 construction in West Goshen Township

A judge ordered Sunoco Pipeline to stop work on installing a valve along the Mariner East 2 pipeline route in Chester County’s West Goshen Township, the first time a court has blocked any part of the controversial cross-state project. Administrative law judge Elizabeth Barnes of the Public Utility Commission late Monday granted an interim emergency [...]

Lebanon County zoning board denies challenge to Mariner East 1

Zoning officials in a Lebanon County township rejected an appeal against their permit allowing a pumping station to be built along the Mariner East 1 pipeline, rebuffing the latest challenge to the project’s public utility status. West Cornwall Township’s Zoning Hearing Board on Tuesday denied the appeal by three residents and Concerned Citizens of Lebanon [...]

Could the future bring subsidized air conditioning to Pa.?

Climate change will bring longer, hotter heat waves to Pennsylvania, according to experts. Some are worried how those living without air conditioning will survive. 2016 was the hottest year on record. It broke the heat record set in 2015, which broke the record set in 2014.  Climate scientists say it’s expected to get worse. With [...]

Sunoco’s Mariner East 1 pipeline leaked ethane and propane in Berks County, records show

Sunoco’s Mariner East 1 natural gas liquids pipeline leaked about 20 barrels of ethane and propane near Morgantown, Berks County, on April 1, the company said on Thursday. The leak, at 5530 Morgantown Road, Morgantown, Pa., did not reach water sources, according to the US Coastguard’s National Response Center, which records spills of hazardous materials [...]

Regulators to seek ways of boosting natural gas service in rural communities

A national investigation by utility regulators into ways of increasing natural gas supplies to under-served or un-served areas appears to be ignoring alternative energy sources and may be exposing those communities to high maintenance costs for new pipelines, critics said. Utility regulators are forming a task force to look at ways of supplying more gas [...]

Wolf says Act 13 language should be fixed to protect impact-fee revenue

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said late Wednesday that the wide-ranging Act 13 law should be changed to ensure that municipalities receive all the revenue they are entitled to from the state’s impact fee on gas drilling. Wolf’s office issued a statement in support of the Public Utility Commission which said Tuesday that the law’s language [...]

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