Today, the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) took the rare step of reversing a judge’s recommendation in the case of whether to grant the operators of a proposed 31-mile pipeline public utility status. The PUC said that the Commission indeed had the authority to enforce environmental protections that advocates fought to have included in the project. This means the case now heads back to the judge for more hearings and study.
The Laser Northeast pipeline is the first part of an extensive system linking potentially hundreds of gas wells in Susquehanna County, PA, to the interstate Millennium Pipeline in Broome County, New York. The company’s request comes as the region grapples with an explosive rate of gas drilling and an outbreak of industrial accidents and pollution related to rushed and irresponsible development.
This is the first time a pipeline company has sought public utility status in the development of the region’s Marcellus Shale deposit. Earthjustice is representing a concerned resident who has protested the application, to ensure that public safety, environmental protections, and the rights of individual property owners are upheld as pipeline proposal moves forward.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice Associate Attorney Megan Klein.
“This unusual turn of events is a win for Pennsylvania residents. For the first time, officials with the Pennsylvania Utility Commission have signaled that there’s room for utility regulators to consider environmental and public health concerns along with more traditional issues like utility rates and rights of way.
“Gas development has proceeded at a frenzied pace in Pennsylvania, and along with it have come countless spills, accidents and explosions. Finally, state officials have a chance to do something right from the outset, rather than rushing to clean up the aftermath.
“This forward-thinking approach should be the rule, rather than the exception in Pennsylvania. We hope that this is a sign that the tide is finally turning in the state, ushering in a much-needed era of more responsible gas development.”