Court Rules Against Pipeline Condemnation of State-Owned Lands

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit,
the federal appeals court responsible for cases arising in New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, and Delaware, ruled for the
state of New Jersey and against the developers of the PennEast natural gas
pipeline. The pipeline company, holder of a license from the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), had filed suit against the state and other
property owners under the Natural Gas Act to exercise eminent domain over lands
needed to construct its 116-mile pipeline from Luzerne County, Pa., to Mercer
County, N.J.  Among the lands subject to
the condemnation were properties and easements owned by the state of New
Jersey, including 40 parcels subject to state-held agricultural protection and
open space easements. New Jersey objected to the condemnation of these lands
citing several grounds, but the federal district court granted
the condemnation in December 2018. The state appealed. In its Sept.

DEP Audit Finds Beaver County Agency had Poor Oversight of Two Major Pipeline Projects

The Pennsylvania Department
of Environmental Resources recently revoked some of the Beaver County
Conservation District’s permitting powers after an audit showed that it did
a poor job overseeing many projects, including several big natural gas pipelines
being built there. The agency had been authorized to issue erosion and
sedimentation and water encroachment permits for the DEP. A press release noted
that such delegation of duties to county conservation districts is optional,
and that DEP will now take over handling those permits. An audit
conducted in April found that the agency did not have proper staffing, and
did not properly review applications, coordinate with DEP or sufficiently
inspect projects. “DEP staff identified significant and consistent problems
with BCCD’s recordkeeping, permit review, and inspections,” said DEP Secretary
Patrick McDonnell in a press release.

Governor Wolf met by Mariner East Opponents

Gov. Tom Wolf has made Pennsylvania’s energy industry a key
focus of his administration. However, while some plans proposed by the governor
have been met with praise, others have caused contention. Wolf campaigned on several environmental and energy issues
in both of his runs for office. He promised to harness the natural gas and oil
industry in the state, and ensure that Pennsylvania’s public lands would be
protected. He has delivered on parts of these promises, like his 2015
moratorium on leasing public lands to oil and gas drillers.

Increase in Wastewater Pipelines Raises Regulation Questions

Natural gas companies are looking for better, more efficient ways to transport and dispose of contaminated wastewater used in the hydraulic fracturing process. Other shale basins across the United States have employed the use of a pipeline system to transport wastewater to other wells or treatment facilities rather than trucking it to reduce costs and community impacts. Major natural gas companies in Pennsylvania are following suit, though major questions linger about their monitoring to ensure there are no leaks.

Pennsylvania Takes Steps to Strengthen Gas Liquids Pipeline Safety Rules

The PUC on June 13 announced it is considering two separate rule-making proposals involving safety of pipelines carrying petroleum products and other hazardous materials.

The first is seeking public comment on an advance notice of rulemaking order to be considered in making potential changes to comprehensive safety regulations. The areas that may be addressed include a number of subjects that were problems with the Mariner East II pipeline, which was built across the state, but also resulted in spills, water damage, several shutdowns, and fines.

The second proposal would require that pipeline public utilities would be required to file annual reports of a pipeline’s service life, capital investment plans and other financial reports.

Regulation and Oversight of Pipelines Carrying Natural Gas Liquids

Regulators and legislators are taking a new look at regulation of the pipelines that carry highly valuable gas liquids from the fracking fields of North America to the processing facilities and refineries that convert these liquids into plastics, fuels, and chemical products.

Report Finds Devaluation of Homes Near Pipelines

A recent study indicates that homes built near and around pipelines face potential devaluation. Published in the journal Resource and Energy Economics, the study entitled Shale gas transmission and housing prices used real estate data in New York State to study the correlation between home values and pipeline infrastructure. The researchers chose New York as it is home to the Constitution Pipeline, a 125 mile long pipeline which transports natural gas from the Marcellus Shale basin in Pennsylvania to Albany, New York. Their work was extensive, but the most interesting conclusion stemmed from their comparison between home values pre-announcement of the Constitution Pipeline and post-announcement. Though they found from previous research that home values in the area were increasing pre-announcement, the trend was reversed post-announcement.

API Report Shows Decrease in Pipeline Incidents while Productivity Rise

The American Petroleum Institute has released their Liquids Pipeline Performance Report, tracking various metrics related to oil and natural gas pipelines over the past five years. Using data provided by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the report’s findings indicates a positive trend in production, while incidents have fallen. Pipeline safety is an ever-salient topic in the minds of Pennsylvanians. As natural gas development continues to sweep across the Commonwealth, many residents have developed a fear of the industry, especially pipelines. Their fears are not unwarranted, however.

AG Shapiro, PA Attorney General’s Office Launch Criminal Investigation against ME Pipelines

Those who follow natural gas development, or have watched the evening news in the past two years know of Sunoco’s Mariner East pipeline projects as one of the controversial endeavors in the state. The three Mariner East pipelines, the Mariner East 1, 2 and 2x, are a hotbed of disputes with nearly a hundred regulatory violations piling up amongst the trio. Now, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is stepping in to assist Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland in her office’s investigation into the pipelines. The investigation is into any criminal actions that Sunoco or parent company Energy Transfer LP has committed. State representatives have commented on the investigation, one stating that Sunoco’s ongoing operation of the Mariner East pipelines without an emergency plan in place is “risking catastrophe, which is a criminal offense”.

Rice Midstream, now Equitrans, Hit with $1.5M Fine for Pipeline Issues

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is continuing to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for their errors and shortcomings. Their fine levied against Rice Midstream Holdings is one of the most recent examples of such enforcement of the law. The DEP enforces numerous laws and guidelines for construction operations pertaining to maintaining water and soil quality and mitigating any negative effects of construction. Pipeline development can cause copious amounts of environmental issues if the proper legally mandated precautions and standards are not maintained.  In fact, oil and gas companies must acknowledge the law to receive the proper permits to begin pipeline development. In 2017, Pittsburgh-based Rice Midstream operated a construction site in Greene County, PA, where the development of the Beta Trunk natural gas pipeline was underway.