Katelyn Armbruster: Background

Since all pipelines are not created equal, pipelines are often defined, for purposes of regulation, by what they carry and where they go. Determining how many pipelines exist in the country is a surprising struggle as certain pipelines, rural gathering lines for example, are not accounted for. This is even more surprising when almost a third of U.S. energy demand is fuel transported through pipelines (Castaneda, 2004). However, documented pipelines weave an extensive web across the country, and within the state of Pennsylvania, as seen in the maps below.

The United States has nearly 305,000 miles of interstate and intrastate transmission gas pipelines (“About U.S.”, n.d.). That is enough natural gas pipelines to wrap around the world 12 times over. Interstate pipelines cross state boarders and intrastate pipelines stay within state bounds. Transmission gas pipelines are just one of three categories of pipelines used to transport natural gas. The other two types of gas pipelines are gathering lines and distribution lines. Gathering lines move natural gas from the site of gas extraction to larger pipelines, called transmission lines, which carry the gas over long distances. Distribution lines are smaller and connect transmission lines directly to consumers.

According to the Office of Pipeline Safety, Pennsylvania is home to some 57,885 miles of gas pipelines (Pless, 2011). While the majority of the pipelines accounted for in Pennsylvania are distribution lines, the number of gathering lines in the state is not completely known. Gathering lines are plentiful, but most are located in rural areas where hydraulic fracturing is taking place and are not regulated. The federal agency in charge of safety regulation of pipelines, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) gives the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) authority to regulate safety measures for gathering lines in the state. The PUC estimates 12,000 miles of these unregulated gathering pipelines exist in rural areas in Pennsylvania (“Your guide”, n.d.). This report will focus on the development and regulations of interstate transmission lines in Pennsylvania including the proposed interstate PennEast pipeline.