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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: January 31, 2023 03:31 PM
From: Representative Danielle Friel Otten
To: All House members
Subject: Pipeline Early Detection and Warning Systems
Title 35 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes requires “every school district and custodial child care facility, in cooperation with the local Emergency Management Agency and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency,” to “develop and implement a comprehensive disaster response and emergency preparedness plan consistent with the guidelines developed by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and other pertinent State requirements.”

But as Mariner East and other pipelines have brought new and unmitigated risks to communities across the state, they have left our municipalities, school districts, and emergency responders without any reliable means of monitoring pipelines for leaks or alerting communities of pipeline incidents, leaving these local government entities unable to fulfill these statutory emergency preparedness requirements. In addition, the cost of mitigating pipeline risks currently falls on taxpayers, local municipalities, and county governments.   

In 2019-2020, I introduced legislation to establish a Pipeline Early Detection and Warning Board; empower this board to collect fees from pipeline operators; use those fees to establish the Pipeline Early Detection and Warning Fund; and distribute money from this fund in the form of grants to municipalities, school districts, or county governments for the development of Early Detection and Warning Systems, which will alert communities and emergency responders and mitigate risks of a pipeline incident. 

In an April 2021 ruling for the PUC, administrative law judge Elizabeth Barnes cited my legislation (HB 1735 of 2019-20) as a potential remedy for school districts in the path of one or more pipelines, noting that “HB 1735…would provide standards and a fee-generated funding mechanism to cover the cost of real-time leak detection systems that communicate directly with the appropriate first responders.” Barnes noted that the PUC was considering comments from a local school district “to incorporate or implement this program so the School district would be a beneficiary of a detection system and immediate notification in the event of a leak within the proximity of one of its schools.”

Please join me in re-introducing this important legislation, which properly places the costs of early detection and warning systems on pipeline operators rather than taxpayers and ensures that warning systems are in place prior to pipeline operation or product change, allowing our municipalities, school districts, and emergency responders to develop emergency response plans and fulfill their statutory requirements under Title 35. (Previously introduced as HB1364 of 2021-22 and HB1735 of 2019-20.)

Introduced as HB801