Katelyn Armbruster: Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force

In response to the rapidly expanding market for natural gas and the subsequent pressure to build new pipelines, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf commissioned a Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force (PITF) in May, 2015 (Sheriden, 2015). Leading the task force, John Quigley, Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), is tasked with crafting a set of suggestions for more responsible pipeline infrastructure. The task force is composed of 48 members divided into 12 working groups which include areas of environmental protection, pipeline safety, public participation, agriculture, and local governance. An additional 101 experts, industry professionals, and government workers are contributing their expertise. The task force’s r approach is to engage a range of stakeholders for collaboration on creating a more effective pipeline system that balances environmental protection with economic opportunity (“Governor’s Pipeline”, 2015). Wolf has requested the task force deliver a report to his office in the beginning of 2016 with a set of suggestions.

The projected increase in pipelines may mean more stringent safety regulations are needed. From 2000-2009, Pennsylvania saw over $70 million in property damage from pipelines, a total of 10 fatalities, and 117 significant incidents involving pipelines (Pless, 2011). A recent draft report from PITF in November 2015 cited 184 recommendations for improving pipeline regulations. As key stakeholders, the group was tasked with identifying best practices in their respective areas for safe and environmentally sound pipeline infrastructure. Quigley anticipates the feasibility of these recommendations will be considered for implementation once the final report is submitted (Skrapitz, 2015, November 11). The task force is working on being transparent, so much of their work can be found online including the most recent draft report, video recordings of meetings, and PowerPoint presentation presented to the group (“Governor’s Pipeline”, 2015). A presentation by Quigley pointed out his mission is to find the balance between all stakeholders and the win-win scenarios between all those impacted. This includes gathering insight from a variety of communities, landowners, cultural and historical advocates, and the economic sectors of agriculture, timber, and outdoor recreation (Quigley, 2015).

While the PITF is trying to engage entities that hold stakes in the development of pipelines, opponents argue whether the question is being asked if pipelines are even necessary. Some citizens charge that there is not enough citizen involvement in the PITF and it is premised on the wrong assumption that pipelines are even wanted.