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Pipeline Legislation in the Pennsylvania Senate
Senate Bill 928 – Pipeline Siting Review
Prior to the new construction of pipelines or pipeline construction projects, a public utility shall submit an application to the PA Public Utility Commission (PUC) for authorization regarding the siting of the pipeline to be constructed in order to meet safety and environmental metrics, such as land use, soil/sedimentation, plant/wildlife habitats, terrain, hydrology, landscape, etc. It also requires consultation with PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the local governing body of a county and the local emergency management organization coordinators in evaluating each metric, and at least two public hearings in each county in which the construction would take place.
Senate Bill 929 – Pipeline Emergency Response Fund
The legislation allows local municipalities to levy a fee on pipelines to fund increased emergency response services and related expenses, such as training, equipment, and planning. It authorizes counties to enact an ordinance to impose a fee on all covered pipelines in the county. If the county does not enact an ordinance, each municipality in the county is authorized to impose the fee on the pipelines in the county (provided the total number of municipalities that do so constitute 50% or more of the population of the county). The funding is distributed only to those counties or municipalities (that enacted an ordinance) based on the total distance of pipelines in each county or municipality (that enacted an ordinance). While the counties and municipalities can act to impose the fee, the PUC administers and enforces the program and distributes the funding. One percent of the revenues are for PUC administrative costs. The fee is calculated as 5% of a pipeline operator’s total gross intrastate operating revenues for the transportation of the pipeline contents through the pipeline within PA for the immediately preceding calendar year. The revenue goes into a new fund for distribution. The distribution is split 85%-15% with the greater percentage going to preventive measures with a 60%-40% split for counties and municipalities. Any remainder after distribution of the incident response portion is distributed for preventive measures.
Senate Bill 931 – Pipeline Safety Valves
This legislation calls for incorporating automatic or remote shutoff valves on pipelines in high consequence areas throughout Pennsylvania to better protect the public and prevent potential emergencies. Specifically, this bill requires public utility pipelines transporting natural gas or natural gas liquids through high consequence areas to install automatic or remote shutoff valves at the following locations:
- Within 100 feet of each municipal boundary crossed by the facility.
- Within 100 feet of the facility’s entry and exit of a high consequence area.
In addition, this legislation calls for pipeline companies to test the reliability of shutoff valves annually, provide the results of these tests to the local municipality, and impose penalties for non-compliance.
Senate Bill 930 – Emergency Notification
The 2006 Public Utility Confidential Security Information Disclosure Act currently prohibits the PUC from sharing specific security information related to public utilities based on issues of state and national security. After extensive discussion, the PUC has suggested a way to obey the law while still ensuring public responders have access to this vital information.
While under current state law, the PUC is prevented from disclosing this information, a company can release it directly to a county’s emergency management coordinator. This legislation calls for public utility facilities transporting natural gas or natural gas liquids to meet with the county emergency coordinator entrusted to respond in the event of natural gas release and provide, at a minimum, the following:
- Identification of any high consequence areas along the pipeline route and the potential impact radius located within the jurisdictional limits of the local emergency management organization.
- The public utility’s current emergency operating procedures.
While the information received by the county emergency coordinator will be considered “confidential” under current state law, it will assist in the development of appropriate and comprehensive response plans. Increased communication between county emergency management and pipeline companies will only improve public safety in the event of an incident.
Senate Bill 574 – Local Taxation of Pipelines
This legislation would make natural gas and hazardous liquid transmission pipelines subject to taxation by local governments, including school districts. Under this bill, Pennsylvania would join the long list of states, including New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia, that recognize the fairness of having pipeline companies financially support the local communities they must pass through to bring their product to market.
Senate Bill 835 – Regulation of Land Agents
This legislation calls for holding pipeline land agents accountable by defining their role and requiring registration with the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission. In addition, the bill calls for allowing public access to a listing of registered agents, requiring criminal history background checks, and providing the commission with the authority to revoke or suspend them for reasons such as fraud or misrepresentation. Currently, land agents in other states, including Texas and North Carolina, have similar laws in place.
Legislation co-sponsored with Senator Rafferty
Senate Bill 605 – Pipeline Impact Fee
The legislation would establish a pipeline impact fee calculated based on the acreage of linear feet plus right-of-way width of a pipeline using the county average land value in an affected area. The funds would be collected by the PUC and deposited into a Pipeline Impact Fund where they would be distributed to the counties and municipalities impacted by the pipeline.
Fifty percent of the impact fee would go to the county that is home to the respective pipeline. Forty percent would go to the municipality that is home to the pipeline. The remaining 10 percent would go to Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for administration and enforcement of the law.
Senate Bill 604 – Pipeline Safety Inspection
The bill would accomplish two objectives:
- First, it calls for centralizing pipeline safety inspection within PennDOT, Pennsylvania’s lateral regulatory agency, to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
- Second, PennDOT will be required to make application to the Federal government for designation as an Interstate Agent in the inspection of interstate pipelines traversing Pennsylvania.
Currently, the PUC is charged with conducting safety inspections of Pennsylvania’s intrastate pipelines. Interstate Agent status for safety inspection of interstate pipelines will provide a number of benefits to Pennsylvania. Most importantly, inspection agents located on the ground in Pennsylvania will develop better working relationships with our local emergency services providers.
Eight states currently serve as PHMSA designated Interstate Agents: Arizona, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Washington. PHMSA already reimburses most of Pennsylvania’s inspection costs for intrastate pipelines. Reimbursement is also available for interstate inspection