Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on May 27 announced the formation of a task force to help state agencies, the natural gas industry, and communities across the state collaborate more effectively as thousands of miles of pipelines are being proposed to transport natural gas and related byproducts to markets.
In Pennsylvania, natural gas drilling has outpaced the development of the infrastructure needed to get gas to market, the governor noted. Pennsylvania is a major center for drilling in the prolific Marcellus shale play, it is the host to several new gas-fired power plants, and it is a major transit point for gas moving via pipeline from inside and outside of the state to other points outside of the state.
Wolf created the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force (PITF) in an effort to promote unprecedented collaboration of stakeholders to facilitate the development of a world-class pipeline infrastructure system. PITF will include representatives from state agencies, the legislature, federal and local governments, the pipeline and natural gas industries and environmental groups, among others.
“We need to work with the industry to make sure that the positive economic benefits of Pennsylvania’s rich natural resources can more quickly be realized in a responsible way,” said Wolf. “This task force is part of our commitment to seeing the natural gas industry succeed.”
John Quigley, acting secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, will serve as chairman of the task force. The task force will aim to recommend a series of best practices for: planning, siting and routing pipelines to avoid/reduce environmental and community impacts; amplifying and engaging in meaningful public participation; maximizing opportunities for predictable and efficient permitting; employing construction methods that reduce environmental impact; and developing long-term operations and maintenance plans to ensure pipeline safety and integrity.
“Over the next decade, we could see the construction of as many as 25,000 miles of gathering lines. These are the lines that connect the wells to the processing stations. We can also expect another 4,000 to 5,000 miles of midstream and transmission pipelines in Pennsylvania,” Quigley said. “Now is the time for a collaborative conversation among all stakeholders — state, federal and local governments; industry representatives; and environmental and conservation groups.”
The oversight of pipeline development is a challenge for the industry as well as the host communities, as no single state or federal agency has sole authority.