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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 15, 2019 07:37 PM
From: Senator Katie J. Muth and Sen. Andrew E. Dinniman, Sen. Timothy P. Kearney
To: All Senate members
Subject: Pipeline Pre-Construction and Safety Standards Act
In the near future, we will introduce two bills that will mandate specific safety and public awareness standards for all pipelines carrying any form of liquefied natural gas and/or hazardous materials.

The first bill will require early collaboration, production, and approval of an individualized-comprehensive Risk Assessment for each pipeline project proposal which will be used to create an Integrity Management Program (IMP) and Emergency Response Plan (ERP). The second bill will create an exception in Act 156 of 2006 to allow access to agencies and a qualified Independent Third Party (ITP) to conduct the evaluations required by the first bill.

While the industry maintains that pipelines are the safest way to transport highly volatile liquids and natural gases, Pennsylvania has accumulated a lengthy history of gas-related accidents, leaks, and disasters. Considering the risks posed by pipelines, their proliferation in Pennsylvania, and more than 15 explosions between January 2010 through December 2018, it is imperative that enhancing public and environmental safety is prioritized and mandated. The primary method to minimize the risk is to conduct a thorough and detailed assessment for each individual pipeline project prior to construction. This risk assessment will then be used to develop the IMP (procedures for maintaining a pipeline and preventing disasters) and ERP (procedures for responding to a disaster). Pipeline operators are already mandated to prepare the IMP and ERP prior to a pipeline’s operation, but they are not required to submit and receive approval of these plans prior to issuance of construction permits. Also, current mandates do not require plans to be project-specific. They also need a written Public Awareness Program for communicating this information with agencies and the public, but this plan is also not required to be submitted ahead of permit issuance. Current mandates do not require pipeline operators to collaborate with these safety agencies or conduct an individualized risk assessment for each pipeline project. Furthermore, pipeline operators often use Pennsylvania’s critical infrastructure confidentiality law to dictate which information is protected from disclosure without any oversight of how which information is deemed classified. In practice, pipeline operators have used the law to mask entire plans from being shared or qualified under the Right-To-Know Law. Collaboration of the development of a project-specific plan that is custom designed for each project needs to be mandated and enforced to ensure maximum risk reduction.

This proposal follows on the heels of the explosion of a newly constructed methane gas pipeline, operated by Energy Transfer Partners, in Beaver County, Pennsylvania in September 2018. Following this explosion, the Governor called on the Public Utility Commission to increase oversight over the pipeline operator as well as an increase in collaborative efforts with government safety agencies. This accident illustrates a concern that future pipeline operators will exploit loopholes in Pennsylvania’s regulations and continue to threaten the safety and well-being of the public and the environment. Gaps in emergency planning, flawed or minimal geologic evaluations, and generic assessments allow for shortcuts in construction, favoring the quickest and most cost-efficient way without regard for collateral consequences that increase harm and risk. An ongoing example of a shoddy pipeline project with numerous violations and high-risk events is the Mariner East II pipeline, which carries highly volatile natural gas liquids through high consequence areas in Pennsylvania. According to PHMSA's database, the operator of the Mariner East Pipelines, Energy Transfer Partners, accrued the third highest number of incidents between 2010 and 2017. The pace of construction for this project has been described by industry experts as abnormally fast. This resulted in the DEP issuing $12.6 million in civil penalties, one of the largest fines in the agency’s history.

Our intention is to prioritize public safety and empower local communities to have meaningful participation. You can find more details on the legislation below.

I hope that you will join me by co-sponsoring these bills. If you have any questions, please contact my Legislative Director, Jaime Bouldin at jaime.bouldin@pasenate.com.

Document #1

Description: Early Pipeline Collaboration for Public Safety

Please see attachment for details.
  View Attachment

Document #2

Description: Adding an Exception to Act 156 of 2006

Please see attachment for details.
  View Attachment