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PA Pipeline Task Force Meets, Final Report Imminent

Pennsylvania’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force, appointed last year by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf (see Shale Daily, July 8, 2015), met Wednesday to discuss its top priorities in advance of issuing its final report next month.

The 48-member task force, representing stakeholders across government, industry, education and more, has been meeting monthly since July. The group provided a draft report for public comment in November (see Shale Daily, Nov. 16, 2015); that report detailed a list of 184 recommendations submitted by 12 workgroups formed to study different aspects of pipeline development in the state.

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley, who chairs the task force, reviewed the group’s highest priorities among the 184 recommended actions based on member voting. He indicated the information would be included in the final report.

The workgroups focused on pipeline issues relating to agriculture; conservation and natural resources; county government; emergency preparedness; environmental protection; historical/cultural/tribal resources; local government; natural gas end use; pipeline safety and integrity; public participation; siting and routing; and workforce and economic development.

Quigley said the task force report should serve as “the start of a longer conversation,” rather than a final set of rules or recommendations.

As the task force nears the completion of its work, the rapid pace of natural gas development in Pennsylvania over the past several years continues to figure prominently in political debates. Wolf, in his first term, has been embroiled in a budget impasse, butting heads with the Republican-controlled General Assembly over how the state taxes and regulates its gas industry (see Shale Daily, Nov. 13, 2015; Oct. 7, 2015; Sept. 30, 2015).

On Tuesday, Wolf announced a four-part plan to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry (see Shale Daily, Jan. 19).

Reflecting the kinds of protests that have been observed for the numerous new transmission projects proposed across the Northeast, the public comment portion of Wednesday’s task force meeting was characterized by plenty of vocal opposition to pipelines and to the state’s unconventional shale development generally.

Democratic state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, who sits on the task force, expressed concern that the final report wouldn’t translate into meaningful action on the issues that have polarized many in the state amid the industry’s growth. To move forward, Dinniman said the state’s various stakeholders will need to engage in a respectful dialog about how to balance industry development with the property rights of citizens.

“It’s nice we have the task force, hopefully it will be of use, but the central thing that’s missing in this task force report in my judgment, whether it was in the call of the governor or not…is the urging that that dialog take place,” Dinniman said.

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