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

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Natural 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

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The company missed its deadline of opening the line by the end of September. The Public Utility Commission said there are several issues with the project that still need to be resolved.

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Construction on the Mariner East 2 pipeline has faced myriad problems, including damaged water supplies and sinkholes in a residential neighborhood in Chester County.

Risk assessment quantifies Mariner East hazards for residents in two counties

The study says a pipeline “release” such as a small leak or a major rupture was likely to occur once every 79 years along a 35-mile stretch of pipeline such as that through Chester and Delaware counties.

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A Mariner East 2 pipeline construction  site is shown off Valley Road near Media, Pa., on Aug. 22. The site is close to where Sunoco is digging up a section of the pipeline after discovering a coating issue that needed to be fixed.

Sunoco replaces section of Mariner East 2 because of flaws in pipeline coating

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Crews demonstrate Pennsylvania's one-call program Friday at a Columbia Gas training facility in Beaver County.

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The Mariner East 1 natural gas liquids pipeline has been exposed in a creek near a housing development in Uwchlan Township, Chester County.
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Sunoco: Exposed pipe in Uwchlan Township is inactive, not Mariner East 1

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A sign marks the path of the Mariner East 1 pipeline through Chester County.
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Community group commissions ‘quantitative risk analysis’ after county council deadlocks on proposal
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An environmental cleanup crew works to remove fuel from a spill in Darby Creek in Tinicum Township, Pennsylvania, near the Philadelphia International Airport. Sunoco plans to use this same line to ship natural gas liquids until construction along the Mariner East 2 is completed.

Sunoco’s stand-in ME2 line leaked gasoline at Darby Creek, pipeline map indicates

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About 150 people showed up at a rally in West Chester on Jun 9 to urge the state's Public Utility Commission to shut down Sunoco's Mariner East pipeline project.

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Sunoco has said the project is nearly finished. Demonstrators said the project’s violations — and the fact that the line was recently struck by a contractor — are reasons to shut it down.

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