Proposed Law Will Grant PA Public Utility Commission Power to Inspect Natural Gas Pipelines

Regulation and oversight of pipelines, including natural gas pipelines, comes under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Transportation/Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. However, states are empowered to regulate and oversee public utilities, including pipelines that are deemed a public utility. But most natural gas gathering pipelines are not public utilities. Such is the case in Pennsylvania where pipelines are currently inspected by the U.S. DOT. That may be about to change.

A bill has just passed the PA House which establishes Pennsylvanian oversight of all natural gas pipelines in the state:

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Matt Baker and supported by state Rep. Tina Pickett that would give Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) the authority to inspect natural gas pipelines in the state was unanimously approved Monday in the state House of Representatives and has been sent for approval to the Senate.

If the bill is approved by the Senate and Governor Tom Corbett, it would give the PUC the power to not only inspect intra-state natural gas lines, but to also levy fines against companies whose systems were found to be in violation of the law.*

In this case (surprisingly), the feds want to offload the responsibility to the state:

The federal government has been enthusiastic in its support of Pennsylvania assuming the responsibility, because it does not have the manpower to cover all the pipelines being installed throughout the commonwealth due to the development of the Marcellus Shale.*

Provisions in the bill grant power to the PUC to investigate pipeline operators and systems, investigate pipeline facilities and reports of safety violations, increases fines from $10,000 per day to $100,000 per day, and increases the ceiling on fines from $100,000 to $1,000,000.

The legislation now goes to the PA Senate.

*The Daily Review (Apr 5, 2011) – Bill would allow PUC to inspect natural gas pipelines