Overview of the Task Force The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force (PITF) recently released the first draft of its report. In May 2015, Gov. Wolf announced the creation of the PITF in anticipation of significant pipeline infrastructure expansion in the region over the next decade. The PITF is generally focused on the construction of new intrastate gathering lines, which the PITF estimates will quadruple over the next 15 years, and new compressor stations along the anticipated pipelines, which the PITF estimates will number in the hundreds.
The purpose of the PITF is to define a set of guidelines and best practices for planning, siting and routing pipelines; promoting and managing public participation; creating predictability in the permitting process; developing construction methods that would best minimize environmental and community impacts; and identifying operational and maintenance plans to promote pipeline safety. The PITF is tasked with delivering a final report to Gov. Wolf by February 2016 encompassing recommendations on the state’s future regulation of the pipeline industry. The report aims to identify legislative and regulatory changes needed to accomplish the following:
- Sharing pipeline capacity to reduce surface disturbance and environmental impacts
- Encouraging use of existing pipeline infrastructure and co-location with existing rights-of-way
- Coordinating consistent infrastructure planning and siting decisions by state, county and local governments
- Providing sufficient ecological and natural resource data and authorities for government agencies to use in reviewing and siting proposed pipelines to minimize impacts
The PITF comprises 48 individuals, including a variety of experts and stakeholders from state agencies, trade and industry groups, environmental groups, and federal and local governments. PITF members are assigned to one of 12 “workgroups,” each tasked with addressing best practices for a particular topic, including agriculture, environmental, county government, emergency preparedness, natural gas end use, pipeline safety and integrity, and others.
Summary of the report The 335-page draft report includes a list of 184 recommendations from the workgroups. Each recommendation provides a summary of the recommendation, an overview of the relevant agencies involved, the justification for that recommendation, actions required to achieve the recommendation, expected challenges, supporting material, and issues to address such as cost or environmental impacts. Many of the recommendations, if adopted, would impose new requirements on pipeline operators through the passage of new laws and implementation of new regulations.
A sampling of some of the recommendations most relevant to midstream companies include:
- Requiring performance-based metrics for long-term maintenance of rights-of-way
- Monitoring water quality during construction and updating Pennsylvania erosion and sedimentation planning regulations
- Requiring counties to make GIS mapping available to operators and to develop advisory standards for pipeline setbacks and buffers
- Requiring standardized emergency response plans
- Authorizing a fee for emergency response to pipeline incidents
- Prohibiting pipeline location parallel to streams within the 100-year floodway
- Requiring construction to be timed to avoid or minimize field activity during periods of special environmental sensitivity
- Imposing new requirements on site monitoring and maintenance
- Creating a pipeline erosion and sediment control manual
- Expanding the Distribution System Improvement Charge
- Requiring companies to provide maps of finished lines to local governments
- Creating a cathodic protection program and leak-detection survey schedules
- Requiring publication of intent to apply for DEP permits associated with pipeline development
- Reforming the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Index (PNDI)
Next steps The draft report will be discussed at the upcoming PITF meeting November 18. The public comment period closes December 14, 2015. On January 4, 2016, a final report will be circulated to all PITF and workgroup members to review. Discussion of the final report will occur at the meeting scheduled for January 13, 2016. A presentation of the final report is due to Gov. Wolf by February 2016.
The draft report is available here.