PA Pipeline Task Force Holds First Meeting

Jul 23, 2015

Pennsylvania’s new pipeline task force convened Wednesday for the first time as it tries to create best practices for the construction of gas pipelines over the next decade.

“We are in the midst of a wave of energy development that is unlike any other in the state’s history,” said John Quigley, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection and chair of the 48-member task force.

Twelve working groups comprised of 110 members will do the research and prepare lists of recommended practices for the task force, which will ultimately decide what to include in the final report to the governor.

One of the questions raised at the first meeting concerned the role of local governments in the pipeline construction process. Quigley said there are working groups at the municipal and county levels to address those issues.

“One of the main goals is to identify practices that pipeline development can harmonize with county land use planning, and how industry can engage with local governments,” he said.

But he cautioned the task force will not address “every single aggrieved landowner.”

“What we can do is identify processes where communities and landowners have more of a voice and feel that there is an elevated level of practice that has the opportunity of minimizing local impact,” Quigley said.

Gas drilling and protection of the environment can co-exist, he said.

“With the right kind of planning, the right kinds of practices, there’s no question in my mind that we can strike the balance that’s needed to get the immense economic potential development ... from the Marcellus play and (protect) the environment and communities at the same time,” Quigley said.

The task force will not write regulations but rather propose recommended best practices. States have little regulatory authority over the interstate pipelines, he said.

The task force includes a representative from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which does approve pipeline construction. The task force, which will meet monthly, is scheduled to make its recommendations to the governor in February.