West Chester >> State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th Dist., has introduced a package of legislation designed to protect local communities, natural resources, and individual property rights in the crosshairs of the ever-growing number of pipelines planned in Chester County and across Pennsylvania.
“While southeastern Pennsylvania and Chester County may not be home to actual drilling operations, our neighborhoods, communities, and natural resources are significantly impacted by the growing network of pipelines,” Dinniman said.
The Mariner East 2 pipeline is currently under construction in portions of Chester and Berks counties and has drawn opposition from residents, concerned about damage to drinking water sources.
The bills are as follows:
• Senate Bill 605, introduced by Dinniman and state Sen. John C. Rafferty Jr., R-44th Dist., calls for establishing an impact fee that pipeline companies would pay to the municipalities and counties bisected by their pipelines. Under the legislation, the amount of the impact fee would be based on the acreage of linear feet plus right-of-way width of a pipeline using the county average land value in an affected area. Fifty percent of the impact fee would go to the county that is home to the respective pipeline. Forty percent would go to the municipality that is home to the pipeline. The remaining 10 percent would go to Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for administration and enforcement of the law. The bill is currently in the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
• Senate Bill 574 would allow local municipalities and school districts to tax natural gas pipelines. The bill would amend Title 53 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to allow local governments and school districts to impose a real estate tax on natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. Currently, they are exempt from local taxation. Twenty other states allow for the local taxation of natural gas pipelines and this bill is very similar to existing laws in neighboring states like New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia. This bill is currently before the Senate Finance Committee.
• Senate Bill 835 calls for holding pipeline land agents accountable by defining their role and requiring registration with the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission. In addition, the bill calls for allowing public access to a listing of registered agents, requiring criminal history background checks, and providing the commission with the authority to revoke or suspend them for a number of reasons such as fraud or misrepresentation. Currently, land agents in Pennsylvania operate with no oversight whatsoever. The bill is in the process of being referred to committee.
“It’s high time for pipeline companies to support the necessary emergency response preparations, environmental protection, and reclamation measures, and other local efforts directly related to their operations,” Dinniman, who serves on the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said. “And it’s only right for pipelines companies to pay a real estate tax just like property owners, and it’s only right for their land agents to be held accountable to ethical standards.”
Dinniman is also currently drafting legislation that would require automatic shutoff valves on natural gas pipelines in Pennsylvania.
In addition, Dinniman is the first co-sponsor of Rafferty’s Senate Bill 604, which calls for centralizing pipeline safety inspection within PennDOT, rather than the PUC.
“While the Legislature has not been responsive to the needs of the Southeast regarding pipeline issues and it’s been extremely difficult to get these bills out of committee in the past, I remain undeterred and will continue to fight for our region in putting the interest of my constituents before special interests,” Dinniman said.