Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force – For Whose Benefit?

Photo of “Williams-Transco Pipeline Crossing Struble Trail, Downingtown, PA” by Jim Wylie
By Bernie Greenberg and Jim Wylie (Southeastern PA Group)

Last year, Governor Tom Wolf established the Pennsylvania Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force (PITF) chaired by DEP Secretary John Quigley, with the goal of achieving a world-class pipeline infrastructure for this state. The responsibilities of the PITF included the siting and routing of pipelines, engaging in public participation and ensuring pipeline safety. The draft recommendations were released in November and the public comment period closed on December 31st. Over those 46 days over 1,500 comments were collected by the DEP website from environmental organizations, gas and pipeline industry representatives, property owners and other concerned citizens.

Just 20 calendar days later (on Jan 20, 2016), the task force will approve the final version of the recommendations. It seems like the real intent of this task force is to streamline the process for pipeline developers.

The Task Force draft recommendations do not adequately address in advance the environmental effects of pipeline proliferation as stated in Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution which provides that people have a right to clean air, water, and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania courts have mandated that Section 27 constrains every entity with the state government and requires that a thorough and comprehensive review be conducted BEFORE activities such as the expansion of gas pipelines which may have a deleterious impact on our land, water, air and communities.

The Task Force proposes a fast-track massive expansion of pipelines across our state without a proper environmental review. This expansion will disturb many of our precious streams, some permanently, clear thousands of acres of woodland, encroach upon farm fields, affect air quality and divide residential communities. The PITF has charged the DEP with monitoring water quality throughout the state as well as evaluating methane emissions from the many compressor stations to be built. This agency is poorly equipped to handle this expansion of activity – a projected quadrupling of pipeline miles by 2030. The same is true for the public utility commission (PUC) which is charged with monitoring pipeline failures. Furthermore there may not be adequate funds or volunteers to provide for emergency responses to the inevitable catastrophe.

Finally, do we even need or want more pipelines when we should be drafting a strategy for transitioning our energy to renewable sources, not expanding our fossil fuel infrastructure? The renewable energy industry should have a seat at the table when it comes to determining the future of our state. I recommend the creation of a task force dedicated to fully transitioning Pennsylvania ­to ­renewable energy instead of locking in these dirty fuels for the next several decades.

As it stands, It seems that the real beneficiary of the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force is the pipeline industry. Period.

To learn more about the Pipeline Infrastructure Taskforce and to read letters submitted to the Taskforce by Sierra Club members in Southeastern Pennsylvania, click here.

Read the Pennsylvania Sierra Club's Comments to the Taskforce here.

1 comment:

  1. I like your renewable energy task force idea. Fossil fuel production needs to end now. !00% solar works. Think of a quiet Harrisburg, a quiet state, with all electric vehicles on the interstates. No need for noise barriers. Fresh air and water for all creatures. It's a matter of building a mindset around a sustainable planet. We could actually socialize with each other while our vehicles are recharging rather than breathing gas fumes.