PA PUC Wants to Expand 811 to Include Stripper Wells

In just about every state in the country, before you start digging a hole in the ground for some reason (water well, septic system, laying an underground electric line, etc.)–the first thing you do is call 811 or some similar phone number. The “one call” or “first call” reaches a state-authorized (not necessarily state-run) office where they have, on file, maps detailing any kind of underground cables, pipelines and other infrastructure. If such underground structures exist, a representative of the owner for the underground line will, if necessary, stop by and mark the areas so when you do begin digging, you don’t hit it. Makes sense. A bill introduced in 2016 in the Pennsylvania legislature “enhances” the existing 811 law in PA. One of the “enhancements” is that it removes an exclusion for low-pressure natural gas gathering pipelines from being required to be part of the 811 system, mainly lines run to conventional gas wells. The bill was opposed by the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association (see PIOGA Opposes Bill to Regulate Unregulated PA Gathering Pipelines). The bill was reintroduced in March 2017 (see PA State Senator Introduces Bill to Regulate Gathering Pipelines). Once again PIOGA pushed back. In June 2017, a compromise was reached to exclude pipelines running to “stripper wells”–i.e. low-producing conventional wells. With that compromise in place, both the PA Senate and House voted to adopt the plan and it was signed into law (see Shale + Large Conventional Gathering Pipes Added to PA One Call). The PA Public Utility Commission (PUC) is the state agency charged with oversight of the enhanced 811 system. They have been staffing up and rolling out the changes. We spotted a story that talks about the PUC’s efforts. It mentions (bemoans) the fact that stripper wells are still exempt, and seeks to apply pressure to the owners of those wells to “voluntarily” join the 811 system. We all know what comes next after “voluntarily” joining any government-run program…

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