NYPIRG Revising the Energy Vision report 2015


Gas Pipelines: What Municipalities Need to Know (Ithaca)

Gas Pipelines: What Municipalities Need to Know (Ithaca)

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Gas Pipelines: What Municipalities Need to Know
May 17, 2012. Ithaca, NY. Free Twenty interstate natural gas pipeline systems crisscross the region from West Virginia to Maine. As gas drilling operations expand, thousands of miles of new pipelines will be needed to connect existing pipelines to gas wells. Learn the difference between gathering, transmission, and distribution lines; what agencies have jurisdiction over the various types of lines; how pipelines are permitted, regulated, and monitored; and how municipalities can prepare for an increase in pipeline networks.

Presenters: Sharon Anderson, Environmental Program Leader, Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County; Jim Austin, Environmental Certification and Compliance, State of New York Department of Public Service; Deborah Goldberg, Managing Attorney, Earthjustice Northeast Regional Office; Meghan Thoreau, Planner, Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board.

Co-sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County and Tompkins County Council of Governments.

PSC on natural gas pipelines/gathering lines. Jan 20, 2011, Norwich

Chenango, Otsego, Delaware, Madison Regional Natural Gas Collaborative in Norwich. Jan 20, 2011.


The audio for this meeting is available at: http://changetheframe.com/audio/four%20county%20fracking%20forum-processed.mp3 It’s about 2 hours. 1:59:55

A video will be posted at www.ShaleShockMedia.org at some point. This will take at least 1 week…

The very interesting thing I heard from this meeting:

  • The definition of what makes a “gathering line” different from a “trunk line” is the length, diameter, and pressure of the pipe. But the definition is somewhat fuzzy. Anything above a certain size/pressure is regulated by the NY Dept. of Public Safety. Below that, these smaller typically gathering lines are completely unregulated by the state. The state does not even have details about the location of these lines.
  • The good thing is (since NY is a Home-Rule state) that this creates an opportunity for local municipalities to create local laws which regulate gathering lines. But municipalities now seem pretty uninformed about this.  Bill Houston


Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Chenango, Otsego, Delaware, Madison Regional Natural Gas Collaborative in Norwich.

The speaker was Jim Austin of the Public Service Commission.
Jim gave a presentation of what the PSC does in the way of permitting local and state gas lines.  PSC is responsible for the permitting of gas lines of greater that 125 psi over 1000 feet long.
FERC is responsible for permitting interstate gas lines.
PSC has regulations that apply to these pipelines in a 3 tiered formula.  Smaller lines requiring less scrutiny than larger ones.  Details are to be found here:
There are two areas of concern that I can see with the PSC process.  The first is that PSC is very involved with giving waivers from local ‘unreasonable’ regulations.  The other is that PSC has 2 (two) people in the field doing inspections for the whole state of NY.
It became very clear at the meeting that the concerns of most of those present were about the pipelines that are NOT permitted by PSC.  These are gathering lines under 125 psi.  It seems that no one permits, supervises, inspects or maps these lines except the gas companies.  There are very many more gathering lines than there are lines over 125 psi (example – more capillaries than veins or arteries).  In the event that there is more than an acre of disturbance for gathering lines, then a SPIDES permit would apply.  Jim believes that gathering lines are regulated by local government.  These low pressure pipelines are plastic, and are usually buried 2 to 4 feet deep.  They are not subject to Dig Safe labeling, but are required to have trace wire.
Farmers are very concerned about these gathering lines and the Farm Bureau wants PSC to supervise all gas lines and include them in Dig Safe NY.  There is legislation being written to implement this.
The pipeline safety department of PSC oversees compliance for both PSC and FERC permitted gas lines.  The question was raised if they also inspect lines below 125 psi.  To answer this and other safety questions, the pipeline safety department will be asked to send someone to address the collaborative at a future date.
I asked when the smell is added to gas so that the public could be aware of leaks in gas lines.  Stephen Keyes of Norse Energy was unable to answer the question, but I will be emailing him to follow up.
My general impression is that rather like DEC, PSC is woefully understaffed to cope with the proposed gas invasion, and there is insufficient regulation of low pressure gathering lines.  Caroline Martin