Brigham McCown, Chairman of the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure and formerly the administrator of the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration draws on his decades of experience working on infrastructure projects to highlight the different responsibilities that various levels of government have in a recent piece in the Patriot News.
Regulations and oversight are two things that many of the pipeline opponents can’t seem to understand. As expected, they would love for the regulations to be soup intrusive that infrastructure projects could again be developed or updated in Pennsylvania. Such a view would be bad for all Pennsyvlanians because it would impact our roadways, rail, and communications technology in addition to the pipeline network.
Their narrow worldview would also be bad for Pennsylvania’s economy. Mariner East alone is projected to provide a $9.1 billion economic impact for the Commonwealth and provide just short of 60,000 jobs, most of which are local, high-skilled union workers.
McCown was recently a panelist at the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors conference in Hershey Pennsylvania. The purpose of the panel was to discuss Pennsylvania’s pipeline infrastructure development and the need for local county and municipal bodies to work on emergency response plans. In addition to Brigham McCown, Greg Noll who has conducted hundreds of trainings for first responders on emergency preparedness and David Nitsch with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, which is a resource for local governments to develop their local emergency response plans.
The following is part of McCown’s piece:
The United States is experiencing a remarkable energy renaissance. Rooted right here in Pennsylvania, shale development has transformed our country from a position of dependence on others to a leadership role on the global stage. What was once seen as a throwaway political promise, “energy independence” has become a policy reality.
At the same time, this resurgence has placed a renewed and often passionate focus on the reliability and safety of our national infrastructure. Both are positive signs of progress.
While I am proud to acknowledge our energy transportation infrastructure is extremely safe and efficient, there is more work to be done. My former boss and mentor, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, once equated pipelines to our own arteries through which flows the lifeblood of our economy.
Pipelines provide us with the fuel we need to heat our homes and factories, the fuel we require to make electricity, and to power every form of transportation. Pipelines are extremely efficient and safe, and that safety has continued to improve during the last two decades, all while energy transported through those pipelines has increased substantially as the United States has become largely energy independent for the first time in nearly 70 years.
Producing far more energy than we have in the past means that new energy highways are needed. Some are brand new, others are existing highways — and all of this has put scrutiny on the regulatory process. Some of this scrutiny is warranted, and some is based on little more than political differences. These days it is hard to pick up a newspaper without mention of a new pipeline controversy. The Mariner East II Pipeline has put a sharp point on the roles of federal, state and local authorities and the question of who, exactly, is in charge. As frustrating as it may be for local citizens, Mariner East and the conversation around it offer an opportunity to provide clarity and to further bolster collaboration at all levels.
Without question, municipal and county involvement in pipeline development is critical. Local officials generally have a close understanding of the on-the-ground considerations unique to each area, and their understanding can help to inform planning and oversight.