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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 5, 2019 04:15 PM
From: Representative Christopher B. Quinn
To: All House members
Subject: Pipeline Safety Package
In the near future, I plan to introduce a package of legislation regarding pipelines. The current framework of state law, federal law and regulation divides jurisdiction for pipelines among the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Public Utility Commission, and the Department of Environmental Protection, which results in a complex web of jurisdictions and responsibilities for various aspects of pipeline development and operation. This shared jurisdiction causes concerns for many constituents, who believe that the lack of single agency with overarching responsibility results in a patchwork system that fails to fully account for public safety.

A paramount concern for residents of the communities that pipelines pass through is the lack of a thorough siting process. Currently, hazardous liquids pipelines that carry highly volatile petroleum products can be constructed and operated in close proximity to schools, hospitals and shopping centers. It is imperative that we require proposed pipeline routes to be evaluated, not only for environmental impacts, but also for the safety of our communities.

Additionally, we should take preemptive steps to mitigate the risks associated with existing or new pipelines once they begin operations. Pipeline operators must be required to share information with county emergency response coordinators and administrators of nearby schools so that local officials have the information they need to respond to emergency situations if they arise. We can also implement measures now to ensure that when emergency situations do occur in one section of a pipeline, the damage does not spread or continue when the pipeline resumes transporting natural gas and hazardous liquids. These steps include requiring automatic shutoff valves as well as inspections prior to the resumption of service.

This legislation is necessary to address several concerns with current pipeline development and operation that have become apparent during the recent increase in natural gas production and associated products. While this increased production has benefited many, it has also caused concern for residents throughout the Commonwealth. Please join me in ensuring that all of our communities remain safe by cosponsoring the bills in this package. Several of these bills are similar to bills from last session that received bipartisan support in the Senate.

Please consider joining me in sponsoring the legislation in this package.

Document #1

Introduced as HB735

Description: Pipeline Siting:

This bill amends Title 66, the Public Utility Code, to establish siting procedures for the construction of new pipelines. Prior to construction of a new pipeline, a public utility must submit an application to the Public Utility Commission that includes information regarding the proposed project, including, among other items, the proposed route and alternative routes, environmental impact assessments, and the safety considerations incorporated into the design, construction, and maintenance of the pipeline. The bill also requires consultation with Department of Environmental Protection, the local governing body of a county, and the local emergency management organization coordinators. At least two public hearings in each county where the construction would take place are also required.

Document #2

Introduced as HB887

Description: General Assembly Approval of Pipelines:

This bill amends the Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Act to require General Assembly approval, by concurrent resolution, prior to the construction or development of any pipeline that traverses three or more counties.

Document #3

Introduced as HB889

Description: Risk Assessments:

This bill amends the Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Act to require a pipeline operator, upon written request, to release any safety assessment studies or data that were conducted or collected about their facilities.

Recently, residents resorted to privately-raised money to pay for a risk assessment of a pipeline project in their communities. If a pipeline operator has conducted a risk assessment, they should be required to share it with the communities where their facilities are located.

Document #4

Introduced as HB890

Description: Emergency Response Information:

This bill amends Title 66, the Public Utility Code, to require a public utility with facilities transporting natural gas or natural gas liquids to meet with the county emergency coordinators along the pipeline route to identify any high consequence areas and the potential impact radius around the pipeline. The public utility must also share its current emergency operating procedures with the emergency coordinators.

Increased communication between county emergency management and pipeline companies will only improve public safety in the event of an incident. If a situation should occur, we rely on our emergency responders to have all the necessary information to respond safely and effectively.

Document #5

Introduced as HB733

Description: Pipelines Near Schools:

This bill amends Title 66, the Public Utility Code, to require a public utility with hazardous liquid pipeline facilities within 1,000 feet of a school to file a list of those schools with the Public Utility Commission and provide, upon request, information to those school officials to assist in preparing a pipeline leak response plan. The bill also requires a public utility pipeline operator to attend a school board meeting to discuss emergency response planning information. 

Document #6

Introduced as HB886

Description: Shutoff Valves:

This bills amends Title 66, the Public Utility Code, to require a public utility operating a pipeline in a high consequence area to install automatic or remote shutoff valves within 100 feet of each municipal boundary crossed by the facility and within 100 feet of the facility’s entry and exist of each high consequence area. A public utility is required to test the reliability of shutoff valves annually and provide the results of these tests to each municipality where a shutoff valve is located.

Document #7

Introduced as HB888

Description: Mandatory Inspection Following Shutdown:

This bill amends the Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Act to require that, following an incident that results in a shutdown of a pipeline, the operator must inspect the entirety of the pipeline before resuming operations. Under federal regulations, a pipeline operator may voluntarily or involuntarily, by action of the Public Utility Commission, suspend operations of a pipeline when a leak occurs that results in a death or personal injury requiring hospitalization, property damage of $50,000 or more, loss of three million cubic feet or more of product, or any other event deemed significant in the judgment of the operator.

Following a suspension of operations, it is only proper that the entirety of the pipeline be inspected to prevent future incidents before an operator be allowed to continue to transport hazardous liquids through our communities.