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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: August 10, 2015 02:15 PM
From: Senator Lisa Baker
To: All Senate members
Subject: State Regulation of Rural Class 1 Unconventional Gathering Pipelines
Please join me in co-sponsoring legislation to extend Public Utility Commission (PUC) safety jurisdiction to Class 1 unconventional gathering lines located in rural areas. These lines are not public utilities and are not currently regulated by the PUC or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and do not fall under federal pipeline safety laws.

As an agent for the federal Department of Transportation’s Office of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the PUC is charged with enforcing federal pipeline safety regulations in Pennsylvania. The PUC Gas Safety Division regulates, inspects, and enforces state and federal regulations as they apply to natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines.

Pipelines are classified by PHMSA based upon location and the number of buildings intended for human occupancy over a continuous mile:
  • A Class 1 location is an offshore area or any class location unit that has 10 or fewer buildings intended for human occupancy.
  • A Class 2 location is any class location unit that has more than 10 but fewer than 46 buildings intended for human occupancy.
  • A Class 3 location is any class location unit that has 46 or more buildings intended for human occupancy; or an area where the pipeline lies within 100 yards (91 meters) of either a building or a small, well-defined outside area (such as a playground, recreation area, outdoor theater, or other place of public assembly) that is occupied by 20 or more persons on at least 5 days a week for 10 total weeks in any 12-month period.
  • A Class 4 location is any class location unit where buildings with four or more stories above ground are prevalent.
A gathering line is a pipeline that transports gas from a well site to a transmission or distribution line, which then transports it to the customer. A single pipeline often has several different classes of lines on it depending on the areas it traverses. PHMSA, and thus the PUC, exercise safety jurisdiction over pipelines in Class 2-4 locations.

PHMSA has elected not to regulate gathering lines located in Class 1 areas based upon its current risk assessment model. Since they are not federally regulated, the PUC does not have any enforcement power over these rural lines.

Many of the Marcellus Shale gathering lines are located in Class 1 locations and thus exempt from PHMSA and PUC oversight. Other states have imposed additional safety requirements on gathering lines, and at some point in the future PHMSA could exercise jurisdiction over Class 1 lines, but currently, they are unregulated.

I believe the Commonwealth should have the authority to exercise safety jurisdiction over these lines which are prevalent in my Senate district and could be a risk to people, property and the environment.

Under the legislation, the PUC shall adopt regulations necessary to properly enforce the act including but not limited to requiring marking of lines and facilities, reporting incidents, minimum construction standards, recordkeeping, GIS mapping, leak detection standards and inclusion in PA One Call. The bill also provides for penalties and assessments for the PUC’s cost of carrying out the responsibilities to enforce the law.

Thank you for your consideration.

Introduced as SB1044