New Marcellus Pipeline Regulations Coming to PA This Fall

New regulations for the many gathering pipelines in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale drilling regions will be a top priority this fall according to Republican legislators. It’s not clear under existing PA law which government agency has jurisdiction and responsibility for inspecting intrastate pipelines—and that “who’s on first” problem has led to safety lapses, including explosions.

The issue is "ripe for resolution" because bills putting the state Public Utility Commission in charge of safety oversight have passed the House and Senate, said Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, the majority leader.

Leaders have started working to reconcile the bills in order to get something to Gov. Tom Corbett after they return from summer recess, Pileggi said during a panel discussion at the Shale Gas Insight conference.

"The pipeline issue is a big one that needs to be addressed," said fellow panelist and House Republican Caucus Chairman Sandra Major of Susquehanna County. House leaders will follow a similar legislative game plan, she added.

The problem is that thousands of miles of gathering lines are being laid all across the state to connect new shale gas wells to the existing pipeline network, but it isn’t clear who has jurisdiction to inspect them. After several deadly gas pipeline explosions rocked the nation and eastern Pennsylvania, the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission in July recommended that the PUC receive oversight powers for intrastate gathering lines.

"There needs to be a bill on the governor’s desk. It’s a moral imperative," commission Chairman Robert Powelson said he told the governor. "It’s the thing that keeps me up at night."*

*Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Sep 9, 2011) – Legislators eye pipeline safety issue