As part of our work to be part of the discussion about pipeline infrastructure development in Pennsylvania, several of our members attended a pipeline panel discussion in Chester County this week hosted by the Pipeline Safety Coalition. Community events like this can be an important part of the process, but this particular forum seemed more focused on presenting an unbalanced perspective rather than hosting an informed and thoughtful dialogue to benefit the local community.
On three issues in particular, the Alliance believes it is important to set the record straight because misinformation shouldn’t be used as an obstacle to much-needed energy infrastructure development in the state.
First, on pipeline safety. It is a demonstrated fact that buried pipelines are the safest means of transporting energy goods – in Pennsylvania and across the United States. So long as our communities, homeowners, farmers and more will depend on access to affordable and abundant energy goods, safe pipeline infrastructure is absolutely essential to move those goods in the safest manner possible. West Goshen Township commissioned an independent study funded by taxpayer dollars to look specifically at the safety record and planning of the Mariner East projects. That report concluded that the pipeline was going above and beyond safety regulations to ensure safe construction and operations. Despite being commissioned by a local community on the very topic of the forum, the presenters did not raise this important study for discussion.
Second, on the use of eminent domain. There was a lot of misinformation about the use of the practice and its history in Pennsylvania. First, it is important to remember that with regard to pipeline infrastructure, eminent domain is exercised only as a last resort. Moreover, its use has long been justified in order to meet a public benefit. Right now, Pennsylvania has access to one of the world’s foremost natural gas reserves; however, our state does not have the infrastructure in place to move the energy resources. That is why eminent domain has been used to build highways and schools in Pennsylvania, because the broader public benefit they made possible.
And third, on the potential impact of repurposing existing and building new pipeline infrastructure on landowners’ land values. Billion dollar energy developments, like large pipeline projects, not only provide added benefits to the local economy through job growth and tax revenue, but could also increase budgets for local communities. In addition the Federal Regulatory Commission found last year that, “there is no evidence that existing, interstate natural gas pipelines in Pennsylvania or New York have resulted in a decrease in property values. … Furthermore, there is no conclusive evidence that the mere presence of a pipeline would negatively affect the value of a property.”
Pipeline projects will bring billions of new investment to our communities, create well paying jobs, and bring access to affordable energy goods – but they will also cross the private property of landowners. We recognize there are community concerns about safety and those concerns should be discussed and addressed – but in a fair and balanced way.