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GPA Midstream Claims Pennsylvania Pipeline Task Force Report Flawed

The GPA Midstream Association on Tuesday continued to raise concerns about a 658-page report released by Pennsylvania's Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force earlier this year, saying the work could serve as a template for duplicative state and local laws in other parts of the country.

After the report was released, the GPA called some of the proposals included in it "costly and redundant." The association also said the task force's work failed to acknowledge existing state and federal regulations. Formerly the Gas Processors Association, the organization changed its name this week at its 95th annual convention in New Orleans to more clearly identify the role it has undertaken in recent years (see Daily GPIApril 11).  As part of its coverage of the convention, the GPA once again cautioned against the task force's work.

"We're concerned other states might use Pennsylvania as a template for passing more state and local laws affecting midstream," GPA representative Debbie Weaver said in a convention update released Tuesday. "Another problem with the process is that we were left out. However, we're still waiting to see what will happen, whether a legislator is going to propose a new law based on the [task force's] recommendations."

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced the task force in May 2015 (see Shale DailyMay 28, 2015). Forty-eight members were appointed, along with another 100 volunteer members that participated in 12 working groups. State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley served as chairman. The final report was sent to Wolf in February (see Shale DailyFeb. 18).

The task force was charged with identifying best practices and making recommendations in six areas, including public participation; safety; construction; permitting; environmental impacts and economic development.

While GPA claims that midstream companies were not adequately represented, five oil and natural gas producers and six midstream companies, including Williams, Sunoco Logistics Partners LP and MarkWest Energy Partners LP, participated on the task force (see Shale Daily, July 8, 2015). In a letter sent to the governor, GPA said that the report made "clear that the administration is looking to pursue numerous statutory or regulatory changes that govern the operating and siting of pipelines."

The group went on to ask that only best management practices be utilized in the report and not some recommendations that could lead to new legislation. Quigley acknowledged that some of the task force's work covered existing law, but he said some of it is not being adequately enforced. He added that "there are a number of [recommendations] that will require legislation."

The report included 184 recommendations. The DEP is the lead agency for more than half of them. It has convened an internal work group that will evaluate each recommendation and decide which ones can be implemented. Quigley said other state agencies and midstream companies should do the same to advance the task force's work and start a broader conversation about better pipeline safety and management.

The task force is not without precedent. In recent years, Wyoming and Michigan have put together similar groups to help encourage development, enhance local natural gas prices and improve safety. But GPA said some of the Pennsylvania recommendations directly conflict with the state's Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipeline Act, which doesn't allow the state's pipeline regulations to go beyond federal laws.

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