Hearing to Determine if PA Public Utility Commission has Right to Regulate Private Pipelines

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) will hold a hearing on April 22 in Harrisburg, PA to discuss a particularly thorny issue: Does the PUC have the jurisdiction to regulate private pipelines?

The PUC has the responsibility of regulating pipelines that conduct oil or gas for compensation. That is, a pipeline owner leases space in the pipeline to third parties. In those cases, the law is clear. But what if an energy company builds and maintains its own pipeline and only conducts its own gas through that pipeline? The law is not clear on that matter. Hence the hearing.

Jennifer Kocher, PUC spokeswoman, said the PUC has regulatory jurisdiction over “public utility pipelines,” defined as pipelines transporting gas or oil within the state for compensation.

“But if a drilling company uses its own pipelines to transport the gas it produces, then there’s a question about our jurisdiction,” Ms. Kocher said. “We’re looking at that issue, at our safety jurisdiction, safety issues and the role of the PUC.”

Matt Benson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association, said the industry trade group hasn’t addressed the pipeline regulation issue and is taking a “wait and see position” on PUC regulation. He said the group, along with gas producers, hopes to be offered an opportunity to testify at the hearing.*

*Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Mar 18) – PUC sets hearing on Marcellus shale pipes