Bill would require pipeline operators share emergency response plans with PUC
In an initial decision regarding a leak from the Mariner East I (ME1) pipeline in Berks County, a Public Utility Commission (PUC) Administrative Law Judge cited Senate Bill 284, sponsored by Senator Tom Killion (R-Chester & Delaware) as a potential remedy to the question of what confidential security information pipeline operators are required to share with county emergency planning officials.
“County emergency officials must have the information they need to make sure first responders can effectively react to an emergency,” said Killion. “Currently, pipeline operators have the authority to decide what is or is not confidential security information. That’s unacceptable.”
Killion’s legislation would mandate pipeline operators provide current Emergency Response Plans to the PUC which could be responsibly and confidentially shared with county emergency services agencies for the purpose of coordinating a response to a pipeline incident.
In mid-2019 it was reported that approximately 95 percent of an emergency management plan recently submitted to Chester County by Energy Transfer Partners for its Mariner East II pipeline was redacted.
“The plan submitted to Chester County was effectively worthless,” said Killion.
The reference to Killion’s legislation came in a December 18, 2019 Initial Decision in Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement v. Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. regarding an alleged incident involving a leak of highly volatile liquids of ethane and propane from the ME1 pipeline in Morgantown, Berks County on April 1, 2017. It is one of a number of pipeline-related cases before PUC administrative judges.
“The legal basis for withholding this critical safety information is that the information could be accessed by competitors or those wishing to commit acts of terrorism,” noted Killion. “Our county emergency service directors are responsible, dedicated professionals. And clearly not competitors nor those who would do harm.”
“I’m gratified by this Initial Decision and its implications for the other pipeline-related cases under consideration. Protecting residents, their homes and property is my number one priority as an elected official, and I’ll vigorously fight actions that endanger those in the vicinity of these pipelines.”
Senate Bill 284 was approved by the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee in June of last year and awaits consideration by the full Senate. Killion is hopeful the bill will receive a floor vote later this year.