Gov. Tom Wolf has formed a task force to help gas drillers navigate the challenges they experience building thousands of miles of pipelines to carry shale gas to markets and alleviate a glut that has contributed to depressed prices.
The task force, which will be led by Department of Environmental Protection acting Secretary John Quigley, will recommend best practices for planning and routing pipelines through Pennsylvania, the governor’s office said Wednesday.
The goal is to promote collaboration among the stakeholders — drillers, regulators, environmentalists and the public — and find ways to minimize environmental impact while addressing the industry’s infrastructure needs .
“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,” Wolf said in a statement. “This task force is part of our commitment to seeing the natural gas industry succeed.”
The task force will have about 32 members, Quigley said. Industry and government officials along with environmental and conservation groups will be eligible for membership. Quigley first mentioned the formation of the group during legislative budget hearings this year.
“This is not a regulatory conversation,” he said. “This is a collaborative conversation among all stakeholders to try to find the win-win opportunities.”
The task force will also help pipeline companies navigate the permitting process and save money and time on their projects, Quigley said.
“At a minimum, we want to come out over the next eight or so months with a set of best practices (for) the entire life cycle of pipeline development,” he said.
More pipelines are desperately needed to transport record levels of shale gas produced in the state. The lack of infrastructure has led to an oversupply of gas in Pennsylvania, which has driven down prices and curbed industry profits.
There are 25,000 miles of gathering lines and up to 5,000 miles of transmission lines that could be built in Pennsylvania over the next decade, according to the state.
Nearly 30 major pipeline projects have been announced in Pennsylvania, with Denver’s Markwest driving much of the development, said Frank Nieto, senior editor of Midstream Business at Houston’s Hart Energy, who tracks pipeline projects nationwide.
The task force will help pipeline companies learn more about how to best operate in the state, he said. It could also serve as way for companies to effectively work with neighbors whose land will host the pipelines.
“It’s always a good thing to let people know what’s going on and try to alleviate concerns before anything happens,” he said. “As long as it doesn’t lead to excessive increased costs or delays it’s probably a good thing.”
Federal agencies govern much of the development and safety of pipelines, although there is some local and state authority too. That mix makes effective regulatory oversight a challenge.
“It’s very complicated how pipeline regulation works,” said Rob Altenburg, director of PennFuture’s Energy Center, an environmental advocacy group. “A huge issue on the pipelines (is) they often cross habitats or species that we’re concerned about.”
Pipelines are prone to methane and natural gas liquids leaks, which can further pollute the air and waterways, he said.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents drillers and midstream companies in the state, applauded the formation of the group.
“The administration’s efforts are appreciated and we look forward to lending our industry’s subject matter expertise,” said Dave Spigelmyer, the group’s president.
Nominations for the task force should be submitted by June 12. It hopes to hold its first meeting in July, said Quigley.
This article was written by Katelyn Ferral from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.