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PUC Wants Monitoring, More Staff at Compressor Stations

Pennsylvania's top utility regulator wants pipeline companies to use real-time monitoring and post additional employees at compressor stations in order to safeguard against, or actively handle, potential incidents.

Robert Powelson, chairman of the state Public Utility Commission (PUC), also said laws that would encourage the efficient development of intrastate pipelines needed to be enacted, as well as more robust communication between midstream operators and other stakeholders.

Powelson served as keynote speaker for a seminar -- "Environmental Issues Affecting Midstream and Downstream Oil & Gas Development," jointly sponsored by the law firm Blank Rome LLP and the engineering consulting firm Hull and Associates Inc. -- in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

"There should be an on-site person that's able to collaborate with and coordinate with us," Powelson told the Scranton Times-Tribune before his speech. "People want peace of mind that within a couple-hour period, there's going to be people out there deployed."

Under Act 127, enacted in 2012, the PUC became the "state agent" for the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in Pennsylvania (see Shale Daily, Dec. 19, 2011). While PHMSA does not inspect Class 1 gathering lines (those in remote areas), Act 127, also known as the Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipeline Act, requires the PUC to create a registry of all gathering lines in the state, including Class 1 gathering lines.

In April 2012, with the agency still getting accustomed to its new responsibilities, the PUC warned pipeline operators not to under report mileage or misclassify their infrastructure (see Shale Daily, April 30, 2012).

According to the PUC, Pennsylvania has more than 68,000 miles of pipeline, including 46,000 miles of natural gas distribution lines, 10,004 miles of gathering lines and 9,485 miles of transmission lines.

During his presentation, Powelson provided attendees with an update on several projects in the region, including Transco's Leidy Southeast expansion, Williams' Constitution pipeline, Sunoco's Mariner East pipeline and Dominion's Cove Point LNG facility (see Shale Daily, Oct. 2; Sept. 13; Sept. 4; June 17).

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