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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

Latest Posts

Wolf’s energy advisor moves to the Public Utility Commission

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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 [...]

Worker dies in pipeline accident, PUC steps up calls for reform

A man operating a backhoe, who struck and hit an unmarked, high pressure gas line last July has died of his injuries. StateImpact reported on the incident last August in a piece about unmapped and unregulated rural pipelines. Gas and pipeline safety advocates say it was a tragedy that did not have to happen. But as [...]

Solar advocates decry PUC decision on net metering

Solar energy advocates say a recent decision by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission will stifle alternative energy growth in the state. But the PUC says the decision was a compromise between two conflicting state laws. In Pennsylvania, anyone who puts solar panels on their rooftops can sell extra energy they don’t use back to utilities. [...]

Pipeline opponents welcome court ruling on challenge to eminent domain

A Philadelphia judge ruled that a legal challenge to Sunoco Logistics’ use of eminent domain for construction of its Mariner East 2 pipeline can go ahead despite the company’s call for the court to dismiss the case. Judge Linda Carpenter of the city’s Court of Common Pleas, in a decision published on Wednesday, sided with [...]

Low gas price cuts impact-fee revenue for Pa. counties and municipalities

Pennsylvania’s local authorities will lose millions of dollars in fees from the natural gas industry this year because of lower gas prices in 2015. The Public Utility Commission announced on Jan. 30 that mostly because of the sharp fall in gas prices, it would be reducing the amounts paid to municipalities and counties from impact [...]

Pennsylvania Supreme Court to hear more arguments on Act 13

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments related to its December, 2013 decision regarding the state’s comprehensive update to its oil and gas law, known as Act 13. In an order published this week, the court determined that it would take up several unresolved issues, but it would not revisit its interpretation of [...]

Clean Air Council sues Sunoco over Mariner East 2 Pipeline Plan

An environmental group is suing Sunoco Logistics over its plan to use eminent domain to obtain land that would allow it to build a 350-mile natural gas liquids pipeline across southern Pennsylvania. The Clean Air Council is asking the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to rule that Sunoco cannot assert eminent domain to seize land [...]

PUC steps up efforts to advocate for pipeline safety

Public Utility Commission vice chairman John Coleman Jr. spoke about pipeline safety with Scott LaMar, host of WITF’s Smart Talk on Friday. Coleman praised StateImpact’s reporting on pipeline safety, and told LaMar that no one regulatory authority has a map of all the pipelines in the state. “Mapping of pipelines in Pennsylvania is an important [...]

Sunoco launches eminent domain proceedings for Mariner East 2 pipeline

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 [...]

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