Thousands of natural gas lines added with the development of the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania are out of bounds for oversight by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC). Legislation almost certain for quick approval by the House and Senate would reverse that by giving the PUC jurisdiction for audit and safety inspections over all intra state gathering, distribution, and transmission lines. The legislation has the support of industry and environmental groups, according to its sponsor state Rep. Matt Baker, R-Bradford.

“It’s been a year-long process of making sure all the stakeholders had a say in the legislation,” Baker said. “We’re confident it will get to the governor’s desk quickly.”

The legislation gives the PUC the same oversight authority now held by the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), according to Baker.

“The regulatory language stays pretty much the same, but the players are different,” Baker said.

Presently, the Commission has jurisdiction only over lines owned by a gas company classified as a public utility.

“Most of the companies drilling and installing pipelines in this state are not public utilities,” Baker said. “That could leave a big hole in the safety inspection process.”

Under the bill, Washington will reimburse the PUC up to 80 percent of the costs of hiring additional inspectors.

The legislation, HB 344, could be approved by the full House the week of March 21.