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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Wolf Administration Forms Pipeline Task Force

AP Photo/Andrew Rush
Patrick Place, left, a floor hand with Patterson UTI, and Steve Jager, a driller with Patterson UTI, work on a drilling rig contracted by Range Resources in Canonsburg, Pa, on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2008.

Although Pennsylvania has experienced a recent boom in natural gas production, many wells have no direct connection to the main infrastructure of pipelines.

The Wolf administration has created the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force (PITF), to oversee the fulfillment of the demand for connecting pipelines.

John Quigley, acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and chairman of the task force, said over the next 10 years, the state anticipates the construction of as many as 25,000 miles of gathering pipelines, which connect individual gas wells to a main pipeline.

“The industry needs to see this infrastructure developed to overcome low prices,” Quigley said. “There’s a lot of stranded gas in Pennsylvania, wells that have been drilled that aren’t connected to any infrastructure. So the industry is facing a big challenge to get their gas to markets.”

Quigley said the purpose of the PITF is to have an open conversation about better planning of pipelines among the gas companies, environmental organizations, communities and the regulatory agencies. They will make recommendations on routes, reducing environmental impact, efficient construction methods and maintenance plans that emphasize safety.

“There is, really, a race to catch up to the drilling that has already occurred, so the concern is that a rush to develop this infrastructure could needlessly impact the environment and communities,” he said. “What we hope to do is get ahead of that development…and work with the industry to plan this development smarter.”

The task force will meet over the next eight months to determine its set of recommendations, according to Quigley.

He said this is a non-traditional role for the DEP, but is has worked in the past. He led a similar group several years ago, which focused on wind energy.

“This is not a regulatory conversation,” he said. “We’re not trying to create a regulatory body or a group that has any type of approval authority. This is all about having a collaborative conversation engaging with all stakeholders to try to find some win-win solutions.”