Gov. Tom Wolf’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force has identified its top 12 recommendations as part of a final report to guide the state toward “responsible development” of natural gas pipeline infrastructure.
Part of a broader set of 184 suggestions, the top dozen fall into six categories aimed at fostering wider public discussion, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection officials say.
The report touches on everything from location of pipelines to emergency response plans.
Recommendations that fall within the purview of commonwealth agencies will be evaluated to see how those departments may act on them, DEP Secretary John Quigley said, while the private sector is encouraged to do the same.
“This report should start a larger conversation in Pennsylvania. It will be a success if it touches off a sustained debate and promotes collaboration between communities, the gas industry, pipeline builders, landowners and other stakeholders,” Quigley said.
“This infrastructure build-out will impact every county in the state, so it’s imperative that Pennsylvanians and the industries that want to do business here engage in this conversation constructively,” he added.
Key metrics illustrate the industry’s growth and potential for growth.
As the U.S. Energy Information Administration has pointed out, Pennsylvania’s shale-gas production skyrocketed between 2009 and 2014, surpassing 4 trillion cubic feet.
Recommendations in focus
Chaired by Quigley, the 48 task force members and more than 100 additional volunteers, serving in 12 workgroups, have been meeting since July. They voted on all 184 recommendations, identifying the top two in each category:
Amplify and engage in meaningful public participation
• Establish early coordination with local landowners and lessors.
• Educate landowners on pipeline development issues.
Develop long-term operations and maintenance plans to ensure pipeline safety and integrity
• Train emergency responders.
• Enhance emergency response training for responder agencies.
Employ construction methods that reduce environmental impact
• Minimize impacts of stream crossings.
• Use best available combination of technologies to protect exceptional value and high-quality waters.
Maximize opportunities for predictable and efficient permitting
• Ensure adequate agency staffing for reviewing pipeline infrastructure projects.
• Implement electronic permit submissions for chapters 102 and 105.
Plan, site and route pipelines to avoid/reduce environmental and community impacts
• Expand PA1Call for all classes of pipelines.
• Identify barriers to sharing rights-of-ways.
Enhance workforce/economic development
• Attract military veterans to the energy workforce.
• Enhance science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
The Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, which is a coalition of labor groups and chambers of commerce, commended the task force while cautioning against any steps that would hinder pipeline projects.
“We recognize this is the first step in a long process. But even as this process continues, it shouldn’t slow or diminish the safe, responsible development of critical pipeline infrastructure already in the works,” said PEIA co-founder Trish McFarland, president of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce.
“New pipeline projects are delivering both short-term employment benefits from construction, as well as long-term economic benefits from increased access to abundant, more affordable energy resources,” McFarland added.
Several PEIA members testified personally during the task force’s public hearings or submitted comments as the final report was being drafted.
Abe Amoros, another co-founder and state legislative director at the Laborers International Union of North America, praised Quigley “for acknowledging in his opening remarks that there is broad support for these projects because of the tremendous economic and job-creation benefits they generate.”
“For thousands of workers across our commonwealth, these projects are not just pipelines; they are also lifelines to family-supporting jobs,” Amoros said.