Given your interest in environmental issues, I’d like to update you on a legislative package of three bills that I have introduced to protect the public’s natural resources against potential harm from the growing number of natural gas pipeline projects coming through our region.
In its entirety, the package calls for improving the delivery of information from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and permit applications to the general public; protecting taxpayer-funded agriculture and conservation easements by requiring pipeline operators to replace any such lands they build on; and requiring pipeline operators to get the approval of Pennsylvania’s Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board before condemning any Act 43 agriculture easements.
The bills are as follows:
- Senate Bill 504 will require the Department of Environmental Protection to make sure residents are notified of upcoming pipeline projects in their communities. In addition, this bill would require the DEP to post on its website permit applications and supporting public documents, such as engineering studies and related information.
- Senate Bill 506 will require pipeline operators that take taxpayer-funded agriculture and conservation easements to replace them within the same county. The bill calls for requiring acre-for-acre replacement and that pipeline operators take necessary measures to ensure that their projects do not exacerbate the stormwater runoff issues.
- Senate Bill 507 will protect agricultural easements and farmland preserved under the Agricultural Area Security Law (Act 43) by requiring any utility eminent domain action to first be approved by Pennsylvania’s Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board.
The Marcellus Shale is not a regional issue but a statewide one, and that goes for both its potential benefits as well as its negative impacts.
We cannot allow natural gas drillers and pipeline companies to continue to treat our communities as an afterthought, infringing on individual property rights and local land uses decision and jeopardizing our environment and our drinking water in a rush to get their product to market as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Remember, natural gas only has value by getting to market, which it does by being piped to and through southeast Pennsylvania to get to ports in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore or elsewhere.
Even prior to the start of Marcellus Shale drilling in 2004, Chester County served as the hub of a growing network of pipelines with 62 of our 73 municipalities criss-crossed by natural gas pipelines. Since then, additional local projects include Transcontinental’s nearly completed 7-mile replacement project; Columbia Gas Transmission’s proposal to install a second pipeline next to its existing pipeline along the 8.8 miles between the Eagle Compression Station in Upper Uwchlan and West Bradford; and Inergy Midstream’s Commonwealth Pipeline project, which as proposed would be a 130-mile pipeline between Lycoming County and the Eagle Compression Station.
Unfortunately, our state laws and procedures currently do not give landowners and residents the rights and accessibility to information they need to protect their properties, local waterways and other natural resources against unnecessary harm. I think it’s time to change that, and I know area residents and municipalities do too.
For more information, I encourage you to visit my website www.andydinniman.com and read my recent guest column.
Offices of State
Senator Andy Dinniman