MDN Weekly Update – May 22, 2011

poll resultsThank you to those who voted in last week’s online poll. Here are the results:

Should the federal EPA regulate hydraulic fracturing?

No (52%, 131 Votes)
Yes (44%, 111 Votes)
I don’t know (4%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 252

This Week’s Poll

Eminent domain is one of the strongest powers granted to government, and in some cases delegated by government to private companies. It is the right to seize a piece of property and use it for the common good. The owner of the private property seized or used in this way is given “fair and just” compensation by the government or organization. The power of eminent domain is used to secure land for roads and highways, run electrical lines above (and below) ground, for railroads, water and sewer lines and for other purposes. It’s also used for natural gas pipelines installed by public utilities like your local electric and gas company to deliver gas to your house (if you live in an urban area). In order for a company to use the power of eminent domain, it first must be designated as a public utility. That is, it’s a private company, but serving the general public. There are commissions set up in individual states to regulate and control these private companies that serve the public—public utility commissions.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUG) this past week rendered a decision that will, in all likelihood, lead to designating a private company (Laser Northeast Gathering) as a public utility. Laser is building pipelines for gathering gas from Marcellus Shale wells in Northeastern PA. If Laser is designated as a public utility, it will have the power of eminent domain, meaning they can run their gas pipelines wherever they want (within reason). By all accounts Laser is an excellent and responsible company.

The question at hand is, should gathering pipelines from gas wells be granted the status of public utility? Some would say running a pipeline from a well is different than running, say, an interstate pipeline. Those who oppose gas drilling would likely oppose a pipeline running under their property. Should they be forced to allow it? On the other hand, should a pipeline company have to go miles out of the way to lay a pipeline if there’s only one or two property owners who won’t allow it under their land? Isn’t there a greater public good? It’s a tough issue. MDN has already commented which side we come down on (read the story here). How about you?

Should Marcellus Shale pipeline companies be granted public utility status (i.e. eminent domain)? Go to any page on the website and click to vote on the right-hand side of the page in this week’s poll. I’ll report the results next week.

Below you’ll find the “top 5” lists and this week’s calendar listings.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

Continue reading