On Thursday, February 18, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force (PITF) released its final report of recommendations on Pennsylvania’s future regulation of the pipeline industry. In May 2015, Governor Wolf announced the creation of the PITF in anticipation of significant pipeline infrastructure expansion in the region over the next decade.
The report includes 184 recommendations in a 650-page document that is not substantially different from the draft version that was released in November 2015. View here a Reed Smith client alert discussing the PITF’s first draft of recommendations.
Governor Wolf asked the PITF to develop recommendations with a focus on six major categories:
- Amplifying and engaging in meaningful public participation
- Developing long-term operations and maintenance plans to ensure pipeline safety and integrity
- Employing construction methods that reduce environmental and community impact
- Maximizing opportunities for predictable and efficient permitting
- Planning, siting and routing pipelines in a way to avoid or reduce environmental community impacts
- Enhancing workforce/economic development
In the final report, the PITF identified its top two recommendations in each category. To amplify meaningful public participation, the PITF recommends establishing early coordination with local landowners and lessors, and educating landowners on pipeline development issues. In the second category related to pipeline safety, the PITF’s top two recommendations include training emergency responders and enhancing emergency response training for responder agencies. In the third category, which addresses the environmental and community impact, the PITF’s top two recommendations include minimizing impacts of stream crossings and using best available combination of technologies to protect high quality waters. To maximize opportunities for predictable and efficient permitting, the PITF recommends ensuring adequate agency staffing for reviewing pipeline infrastructure projects and implementing electronic permit submissions for chapters 102 and 105. Within the fifth category, the PITF recommends expanding PA1Call for all classes of pipelines, and identifying barriers to sharing rights-of-way. Finally, with respect to enhancing workforce and economic development, the PITF recommends attracting military veterans to the energy workforce and enhancing science, technology, engineering and math education. The PITF chair, DEP Secretary John Quigley also noted that an important recommendation in the final report is for pipeline companies to engage the local communities early and often.
Some of the recommendations in the report would require regulatory changes, and others may require new legislation. There is no timeline for implementation of the report’s recommendation, but Quigley noted that the next steps will include the various Commonwealth agencies reviewing the recommendations that fall within their purview and discussing possible implementation of those recommendations.
The final report is available here.