Pipeline Legislation in the Pennsylvania Senate

Senate Bill 257 – 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.

Senate Bill 258 – Pipeline 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 260 – Pipelines Located Near Schools 

Outlines types of information that pipeline operators must share with schools that fall within 1,000 ft of hazardous liquids and natural gas pipelines, including how to respond to a leak. Currently, pipeline operators are not required to provide this information

Senate Bill 261– 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 262 – 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 263 – 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 264 – 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.