DEP Presents Final Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force Report To Governor
The Department of Environmental Protection Thursday presented the final report of the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force to Gov. Wolf which identified a dozen top recommendations, along with a broader set of 184 suggestions, to help Pennsylvania achieve responsible development of natural gas pipeline infrastructure in the Commonwealth.
The task force presented the recommendations in six major categories, designed to drive wider public discussion on the critical, complex, and interrelated environmental and community issues that Pennsylvania faces in the development of the infrastructure needed to transport gas to market.
Forty-two of the 48 members of the Task Force voted on whether they agreed or disagreed with each of the recommendations.
The top two recommendations under each general issue Gov. Wolf asked the Task Force to address are:
-- Amplify and engage in meaningful public participation
-- Establish early coordination with local landowners and lessors
-- Educate landowners on pipeline development issues
-- Develop long-term operations and maintenance plans to ensure pipeline safety and integrity
-- Train emergency responders
-- Enhance emergency response training for responder agencies
-- Employ construction methods that reduce environmental impact
-- Minimize impacts of stream crossings
-- Use best available combination of technologies to protect exceptional value and high quality waters
-- Maximize opportunities for predictable and efficient permitting
-- Ensure adequate agency staffing for reviewing pipeline infrastructure projects
-- Implement electronic permit submissions for chapters 102 and 105
-- Plan, site and route pipelines to avoid/reduce environmental and community impacts
-- Expand PA1Call for all classes of pipelines
-- Identify barriers to sharing rights-of-ways
-- Enhance workforce/economic development
-- Attract military veterans to the energy workforce
-- Enhance science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education
The Governor created the task force to identify best practices for pipeline siting, permitting and safety. Pipeline infrastructure development is governed by a complicated matrix of federal and state laws and regulations, county plans, and local ordinances.
Multiple agencies are involved in permitting and overseeing siting, construction, operation, and maintenance of infrastructure.
According to DEP, there are now about 12,000 miles of natural gas pipelines in Pennsylvania and in the next decade DEP expects 30,000 more miles of pipelines to be built.
Chaired by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley, the 48 task force members and more than 100 additional volunteers serving in 12 workgroups have been meeting since July 2015. The task force voted on all 184 recommendations, identifying the top two recommendations in each category.
Over the coming months, recommendations that fall within the purview of Commonwealth agencies will be further assessed and evaluated for possible implementation. Industry and other agencies are encouraged to do the same for recommendations that lie within their purviews, said Quigley.
“This report should start a larger conversation in Pennsylvania. It will be a success if it touches off a sustained debate and promotes collaboration between communities, the gas industry, pipeline builders, landowners, and other stakeholders,” said Quigley. “This infrastructure build-out will impact every county in the state, so it’s imperative that Pennsylvanians and the industries that want to do business here engage in this conversation constructively.”
The final report includes a chart showing which agencies will be responsible for implementing each of the recommendations.
A copy of the final report is available online.
Members of the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, a broad-based coalition of labor, agriculture, manufacturing and other business interests that support private investment in energy infrastructure, issued the following statements in response to the final report:
“The task force should be commended for the work it’s doing to ensure our commonwealth realizes its full energy potential,” said Trish McFarland, President of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce. “We recognize this is the first step in a long process. But even as this process continues, it shouldn’t slow or diminish the safe, responsible development of critical pipeline infrastructure already in the works. New pipeline projects are delivering both short-term employment benefits from construction, as well as long-term economic benefits from increased access to abundant, more affordable energy resources.”
McFarland pointed to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex, which is fueling a regional revitalization in southeastern Pennsylvania as a spot for collecting and processing natural gas and natural gas liquids delivered via pipeline from shale drilling operations across the state.
“I want to commend DEP Secretary John Quigley for acknowledging in his opening remarks that there is broad support for these projects because of the tremendous economic and job-creation benefits they generate,” Abe Amoros, state legislative director at LiUNA!, which has more than 25,000 members in the state. “I’ll say again what I said before in public testimony before this task force: For thousands of workers across our Commonwealth, these projects are not just pipelines; they are also lifelines to family-supporting jobs.”
Several PEIA members testified personally during the task force’s public hearings, or submitted comments as the panel drafted its final report, which culled 184 suggestions into a dozen recommendations released today.
PEIA members are reviewing the final report, which totals more than 600 pages.
The Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance was launched June 8 by the Washington County Chamber of Commerce and Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, along with the Laborers International Union of North America and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66. There are nearly two dozen members today.
For more information, visit the DEP Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force webpage.
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