As companies build gathering lines — the pipelines that convey natural gas from wellheads to the wider transmission network — they should use existing rights-of-way as much as possible, and Pennsylvania should take steps to expedite the permitting process, according to a report submitted by the governor's office to the legislature last week.
The report is required by Act 13, the natural-gas law passed this year, and was submitted by Patrick Henderson, Gov. Tom Corbett's energy executive.
Among its 16 recommendations:
• The state should modify laws and regulations to encourage right-of-way sharing and speed up decision-making.
• The state should enhance its Natural Diversity Inventory, a database used for environmental review, to enable companies planning pipeline routes to avoid areas of environmental concern.
• Pennsylvania's "One Call" system should be modified to mandate registration of all gathering lines. One Call maintains a database of underground infrastructure; excavators consult it before digging to ensure they don't risk hitting and damaging pipelines.
• County and municipal officials should be brought into the conversation as pipelines are planned.
• Pipeline operators should work to standardize right-of-way markers.
• One Call and the state Public Utility Commission should develop a statewide map of gathering lines.
Natural-gas companies are expanding their gathering line networks rapidly to transport natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale in northern and western Pennsylvania. The Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Act, enacted in 2011, grants the PUC authority to enforce federal pipeline standards, though it does not have jurisdiction over locating them.
As of October, Pennsylvania's network of Marcellus-related gathering lines totaled 2,535.5 miles, according to the report.