Dialing in a focus on the state's aging natural gas pipeline infrastructure, the Pennsylvania Gas Association (PGA), a subsidiary of the Energy Association of Pennsylvania, last week launched a public and legislative campaign focused on replacing the older lines and associated facilities in the state.
"For too long now this issue has been 'out of sight and out of mind,''' said J. Michael Love, president of PGA. "Aging gas pipelines have served us well, but we need to ensure that the gas infrastructure going forward remains safe and reliable. In addition, as the costs of the natural gas commodity increases for our member companies, we want to make sure the delivery to homes and businesses is as efficient as possible protecting both investments and the environment."
The association pointed out that some 46,000 miles of underground natural gas pipeline are currently in place in Pennsylvania and that the system is a critical part of the community infrastructure. "Replacing aging natural gas infrastructure will not only help to keep Pennsylvania economically competitive, but the replacement work itself is a huge economic stimulus," the group said. "Natural gas utilities across the state are investing billions of dollars into the economy to replace their delivery systems as they reach the end of their useful operating life and that work only stands to increase in the coming years."
The campaign, Pennsylvanians for Renewed Natural Gas Infrastructure, was created to educate consumers and promote legislation ensuring that Pennsylvania's natural gas distribution companies continue to have infrastructure that meets current standards for delivering natural gas. Natural gas is delivered to some 231,000 businesses and approximately 6,000,000 residents in Pennsylvania.
"Pennsylvanians for Renewed Natural Gas Infrastructure will focus on how to deal with our aging natural gas delivery systems in the most efficient and effective manner," added Love. "The campaign will work to educate the public and legislators on the needs for natural gas infrastructure improvements in Pennsylvania. Many existing regulatory and cost allocation policies were put into place decades ago and must be reexamined to ensure continued reliability of one of our most precious energy sources."
Current supporters of Pennsylvanians for Renewed Natural Gas Infrastructure include Northern Pipeline (NPL), Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Dominion Peoples, UGI Penn Natural Gas Inc., UGI Utilities Inc., Equitable Gas Co., Utility Workers Union of America, Locals 475 and 479, United Steelworkers of America, Locals 1852-17, 7139-03 and 13836-14, Banks Gas Services and National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp.
Love explained that the initiative was developed following the first-ever Pennsylvania Infrastructure Summit held in Harrisburg, PA, in April, in which the pressing need to address natural gas infrastructure was raised. During the day-long event, senior executives from numerous infrastructure-related industries and state and nonprofit agencies outlined the needs of their industry and how these needs could be met. In addition, some companies discussed planned capital improvements that are either in process or will be accomplished over the next several years.
"We realize the key to our 20-year, $1.4 billion infrastructure upgrade is completing the work with the least impact on our customers, and coordinating construction schedules with the community is a big part of that," said Terrence J. Murphy, president of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania. "By working together not only can we reduce construction in a community, but we can help reduce municipal and our own expenses by sharing costs."
Love noted that state legislators have taken notice of the infrastructure problems, adding that western Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Solobay introduced legislation, H.B. 2448, in April to facilitate the prompt and timely replacement of natural gas facilities as they reach the end of their useful operating life. The proposed bill would evenly spread replacement costs over several years, rather than continue the burdensome practice of price spikes at the conclusion of lengthy and expensive rate cases. "A similar measure is already law in Pennsylvania for water utilities and is considered a best practice within the water industry nationally," Love said.
More information about the Pennsylvanians for Renewed Natural Gas Infrastructure campaign is available at www.PAinfrastructure.org.
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