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How Long Must The Public Wait For Action On Bipartisan Pipeline Safety Bills?
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In the last three years 22 major, bipartisan bills have been introduced to address significant natural gas and hazardous liquids pipeline safety issues in Pennsylvania and none have made it to the Governor’s desk.

In fact, only one has made it out of either the Senate or House.

On June 10, 2020 the House passed House Bill 2293 (Quinn-R-Delaware) that requires pipeline companies to make emergency response plans available to the Public Utility Commission, the PA Emergency Management Agency and county emergency management director where the pipeline is located and is now on the House Calendar for action.  Read more here.

The bill was introduced-- along with a companion Senate Bill 284 (Killion-R- Delaware)-- after the owners of the Mariner East Pipelines-- Energy Transfer Partners-- only provided local emergency officials with heavily redacted copies of their emergency plans that were basically unusable, according to Sen. Tom Killion’s explanation before the Committee.

On July 15, 2020 the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee reported out House Bill 2293 (Quinn-R-Delaware) and the bill remains on the Senate Calendar for action .Read more here.

In the Senate, the last action on major Senate bipartisan pipeline safety legislation was on June 19, 2019 just before General Assembly broke for summer vacation when the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee amended and reported out Senate Bill 258 (Dinniman-D-Chester, Killion-R-Delaware), a bipartisan initiative to improve emergency response to pipeline incidents (sponsor summary) and Senate Bill 284 (Killion-R- Delaware, Dinniman-D-Chester) require pipeline companies to provide current emergency response plans to PUC (sponsor summary).

The bills have remained on the Senate Calendar for action since then.

The Senate hasn’t even considered a simple resolution-- Senate Resolution 33 (Killion-R-Delaware, Dinniman-D-Chester)-- introduced in March of 2019  establishing a special bipartisan legislative commission to recommend safety, oversight and interagency coordination improvements for the transport of oil, natural gas and other hazardous liquids through pipelines in this Commonwealth.

Meanwhile, violations continue to pile up on natural gas pipeline construction projects like Mariner East 2 that released over 8,000 gallons of contaminated drilling water into the lake at Marsh Creek State Park in Chester County resulting in calls from state lawmakers and citizens groups for the revocation of their permits.  Read more here.

The Senate has 12 voting days scheduled until the end of the year and the House has 13-- which could change obviously, before the FY 2019-20 legislative session ends and all bills die and have to start over again in January.

When will the Senate and House act on this critical issue and these bipartisan bills?

Pending Pipeline Safety Bills

Sen. Dinniman (D-Chester) and Sen. Killion (R-Delaware) have introduced a bipartisan package of 12 bills to address pipeline issues and NONE of them have passed the Senate this year or in the last 2 and a half years--

-- Pipeline Safety Inspection (Killion): Senate Bill 283 - Centralizes pipeline safety inspection within the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and requires PennDOT to apply to the federal government for designation as an Interstate Agent in the inspection of interstate pipelines traversing Pennsylvania. Still in Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.

-- Pipeline Impact Fee (Killion): Senate Bill 282 - Establishes a pipeline impact fee calculated based on the acreage of linear feet plus right-of-way width of a pipeline using the county average land value in an affected area. The funds would be collected by the PUC and deposited into a Pipeline Impact Fund where they would be distributed to the counties and municipalities impacted. Still in Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

-- Pipeline Safety – Notification Requirements (Killion): Senate Bill 281 - Requires pipeline companies to provide notification to residents, municipalities and other applicable parties affected by drilling at least five days in advance of the initiation of any project. Still in Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

-- Pipeline Safety – Mandatory Study Requirement (Killion): Senate Bill 280 - Requires pipeline operators to conduct proper studies and hydrological investigations of aquifers that may be potentially impacted by pipeline construction. Still in Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

-- Pipeline Safety and Advanced Leak Detection (Killion): Senate Bill 753 - Requires Pennsylvania and the DEP to develop clear permit conditions and siting guidelines to increase the focus on pipeline safety and pipeline infrastructure siting to reduce the dangers of improper siting, improper safety management and wasted resources. Still in Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

-- Establishing a Commission to Study Pipeline Construction and Operations (Killion): Senate Resolution 33 - Establishes a special bipartisan legislative commission to recommend safety, oversight and interagency coordination improvements for the transport of oil, natural gas and other hazardous liquids through pipelines in this Commonwealth. Still in Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.

-- Pipelines Located Near Schools (Dinniman): Senate Bill 260 - Outlines types of information that pipeline operators must share with schools that fall within 1,000 ft of hazardous liquids and natural gas pipelines, including how to respond to a leak. Currently, pipeline operators are not required to provide this information. Still in Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.

-- Pipeline Siting Review (Dinniman): Senate Bill 262 - Requires pipeline companies to submit a detailed application to the Public Utility Commission prior to construction of a new pipeline. It also requires approval from the Department of Environmental Protection, the local governing body of a county and the local emergency management organization coordinators in evaluating each metric, and at least two public hearings in each county where the construction would take place. Still in Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.

-- Pipeline Emergency Response Fund (Dinniman): Senate Bill 261 - Authorizes counties to enact an ordinance to impose a fee on all covered pipelines in the county. If the county does not enact an ordinance, each municipality in the county is authorized to impose the fee on the pipelines in the county. The funding is distributed only to those counties or municipalities based on the total distance of pipelines in each county or municipality. Still in Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

-- Pipeline Safety Valves (Dinniman): Senate Bill 263 - Calls for incorporating automatic or remote shutoff valves on pipelines that impact high consequence areas throughout Pennsylvania. Still in Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.

-- Regulation of Land Agents (Dinniman): Senate Bill 257 - Holds pipeline land agents accountable by defining their role and requiring registration with the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission. In addition, the bill calls for allowing public access to a listing of registered agents, requiring criminal history background checks, and providing the commission with the authority to revoke or suspend them for reasons such as fraud or misrepresentation. Still in the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.

This is not the entire list of pipeline bills pending in the Senate that have not seen action, just most of the bipartisan ones.

House Pipeline Bills

As noted, only one bipartisan pipeline safety bill has been passed by the House-- House Bill 2293 (Quinn-R-Delaware)-- that requires pipeline companies to make emergency response plans available to the Public Utility Commission, the PA Emergency Management Agency and county emergency management director.

Like the bills in the Senate, many other bipartisan bills have been introduced this year and last session with no action.

On August 21, 2019, the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee held a hearing on Rep. Carolyn Comitta’s (D-Chester) House Bill 1568 to create a new Pipeline Safety and Communication Board made up of representatives of the six different state agencies with responsibility for pipeline safety in the state and other members appointed by the House and Senate.  Read more here.

The Committee held a hearing on May 30, 2019  in Delaware County on pipeline safety issues.

Bipartisan bills similar to those listed above for the Senate have been introduced in the House, including--

-- New Pipeline Siting Review: House Bill 735 (Quinn-R-Delaware, Otten-D-Chester). House Consumer Affairs Committee.

-- Pipeline Impact Fee: House Bill 187 (Quinn-R-Delaware, Neilson-D-Philadelphia). House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee.

-- Pipeline Safety Assessment: House Bill 889 (Quinn-R-Delaware, Otten-D-Chester). House Consumer Affairs Committee.

-- Sharing Emergency Response Information: House Bill 890 (Quinn-R-Delaware, Otten-D-Chester). House Consumer Affairs Committee.

-- Pipelines Near Schools: House Bill 733 (Quinn-R-Delaware, Otten-D-Chester). House Consumer Affairs Committee.

-- Emergency Shutoff Valves: House Bill 886 (Quinn-R-Delaware, Otten-D-Chester). House Consumer Affairs Committee.

-- Mandatory Inspections Following Shutdowns: House Bill 888 (Quinn-R-Delaware, Otten-D-Chester). House Consumer Affairs Committee.

There are more, but they haven’t seen any action either.

Governor’s Pipeline Task Force

In February 2016, the Pipeline Task Force presented a series of 184 suggestions to Gov. Wolf to help Pennsylvania achieve responsible development of natural gas pipeline infrastructure in the state.  Among the recommendations were--

-- Plan, site and route pipelines to avoid/reduce environmental and community impacts

-- 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

-- Ensure adequate agency staffing for reviewing pipeline infrastructure projects

Click Here for a copy of the report.

Has anyone figured out what happened to all these recommendations?

(Photo: Explosion of Energy Transfer Partner’s brand new 24-inch Revolution Natural Gas Pipeline in Beaver County last September.  PUC is still actively investigating.)

Related Article:

DEP Orders Sunoco To Reroute 1+ Mile Of Mariner East Pipeline, Investigate Chester County Marsh Creek Lake Spill, Restore Impacted Resources

[Posted: Sept. 8, 2020]


9/14/2020

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