Editorial Opinion: “Accurately Map Pipelines” Please

by Duane Nichols on August 16, 2015

Editorial Opinion: “Accurately Map Pipelines” Please in PA (& WV)

From the Editorial Board of the Scranton Times-Tribune, August 6, 2015

Pennsylvanians need look no further than the legacy of coal mining to understand the hazards of inaccurately mapping underground infrastructure. Official mine maps often do not reflect the actual extent of underground voids, and sometimes misidentify the location of some mine chambers.

Over the decades, the inaccurate information has caused an array of problems, from buildings being constructed over unmarked voids to problems with utility lines.

Now, the Wolf administration estimates that the natural gas industry will construct about 30,000 miles of natural gas pipelines over the next 20 years to gather gas from wells and carry it to main pipelines and then to market.

StateImpact Pennsylvania, which covers the economics and environmental aspects of the gas industry, has detailed that mapping of existing pipelines is inexact and often inaccurate. It noted that a heavy equipment operator was badly injured July 15 in Armstrong county while clearing a right-of-way for a new pipeline. His bulldozer struck an existing unmarked, unmapped pipeline, which exploded. His company had received a go-ahead from a state clearinghouse that keeps track of underground infrastructure.

As the gas industry took off in Pennsylvania, the state Legislature gave the Public Utility Commission the authority to regulate gas pipelines. But there are different categories based on size and population density in the areas that they traverse. Some lines are lightly regulated or not regulated.

The general locations of most pipes are known because companies must acquire rights-of-way from property owners. But in many cases the exact locations of the pipes within those rights-of-way are not known.

The Legislature should expand the PUC’s authority over all classifications of pipelines. And it should require companies to provide exact data for every pipeline so that contractors will be able to avoid them and first responders will know exactly what they are dealing with in emergencies.

NOTE: This above request goes out to the State of West Virginia as well. See also the August 18 protest rally in Pt. Marion, PA, at 12:30 pm and 6:30 pm over interstate pipelines: “Hands Across Our Land

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