An effort to give Pennsylvania regulators more oversight over intrastate pipelines likely won't extend to gathering lines in remote corners of the state, but would instead create a registry of those rural pipelines.
An amended version of Senate Bill 325, introduced by Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Dallas, would require operators of "Class 1" gathering lines to report the location of those lines to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).
The main thrust of SB 325 is to make the PUC the "state agent" for the U.S. Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) when it comes to pipeline inspection and rules enforcement (see Shale Daily, Feb. 16). Currently, Alaska and Pennsylvania are the only gas producing states that do not perform this role.
However, the bill would only give the PUC the same regulatory authority as PHMSA, which does not regulate Class I gathering lines, defined as those in very rural areas. Because the Marcellus Shale fairway runs through a large rural section of central Pennsylvania, many future gathering lines would be Class 1 pipelines. Baker's amendment creates a database of those lines but would not have the PUC regulate them.
"She felt that it's essential that we know all the locations of the Class 1 lines," Jenn Wilson, a member of Baker's staff, told NGI's Shale Daily, adding that Baker is "continuing to pursue" the inspection and oversight issue but didn't want to hold up the state agent portion of the bill while she studied various options.
As written, though, SB 325 would expand the size and muscle of the PUC. According to a fiscal note, the bill would require the PUC to hire up to 13 safety inspectors and other personnel at a cost of $1.4 million.
If the bill does not get a floor vote next week, it would be held until the General Assembly reconvenes in April. On Tuesday the Pennsylvania House Consumer Affairs Committee tabled a similar bill, House Bill 344.