AP NEWS

Consolidate Natural Gas Legislation

February 21, 2019

Pipelines clearly are the most efficient and safest means to carry Pennsylvania’s natural gas to growing domestic and international markets, to the point that the industry could not grow without them. But problematic pipeline development in some parts of the state has demonstrated that the state government needs to establish stronger oversight. Politically, pipeline regulation is a far different animal than gas drilling itself. Drilling occurs primarily in a long arc atop the Marcellus and Utica shales from Northeast to Southwest Pennsylvania. Those areas are represented in Harrisburg primarily by Republicans who tend to oppose state taxation and regulation. But the pipelines cover hundreds of miles across multiple political jurisdictions, from sparsely populated rural counties where the pipelines originate, through the densely populated suburbs of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Because of problems with pipelines — especially the Mariner East 2 project, which has been halted three times by regulators and courts due to environmental violations and safety concerns since construction began in February 2017 — a bipartisan coalition has emerged in the Legislature in support of tougher pipeline safety and environmental laws. Dozens of bills have been introduced from both sides of the aisle to give state agencies greater authority over pipeline siting, require pipeline companies to provide detailed information to schools along the route and local first responders, require valves at multiple locations to ensure rapid shutoffs during emergencies, and to boost inspections and regulatory oversight of pipeline construction and operations. Legislative leaders should consolidate the bills into a comprehensive package to ensure that the economic benefits of natural gas are not at the expense of environmental quality and public safety.