Local reps take pipeline issue to the state level
By Bill Rettew, firstname.lastname@example.org, @dailylocal on Twitter
POSTED: 03/19/17, 5:24 AM EDT | UPDATED: 20 HRS AGO 0 COMMENTS
WEST GOSHEN >> With several township residents strongly opposing installation of the proposed Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline, a pair of elected representatives is fighting to improve safety and a public sharing of the financial bounty generated by pipelines.
Two Chester County elected officials, Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, and new Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, have taken the fight to Harrisburg.
Dinniman has been addressing the pipeline issue for five years. While he no longer represents West Goshen Township, he has supported several pipeline bills concerning notification, the financial impact and cost, safety and preserving the environment.
Chester County is home to the third most miles of pipelines in the state.
Comitta wants to make pipelines safer.
“I have a great deal of confidence in local emergency services personnel,” Comitta said. “They are highly dedicated and highly trained and I don’t have a concern about that, but we need additional training. I don’t know what the additional costs would be, but we should find out and support local emergency responders for what they need.”
Dinniman favors legislation that is “safe and respectful” and absorbs the cost impact on communities to get the product to market, Dinniman said. ”Everybody can have their cake and eat it too.”
Comitta represents West Goshen and is part of ongoing state budget discussions.
“Whether or not you support (pipelines), public safety has to be our number one concern.”
Better regulation to improve safety is key.
“Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is part of the Pennsylvania Constitution — clean air, fresh water,” Comitta said.
Dinniman supports taxing pipeline owners.
Last year’s SB-905 would have accessed a real estate tax to support local municipalities and school districts. Pipeline right-of-way would be taxed based on square footage, like conventional homeowners and businesses now are. Twenty other states now levy a fee.
“These companies say they want to be good neighbors,” Dinniman said. “Here is a way to prove it.”
Dinniman said that Chester County is “right in the middle of the way” for shipping Marcellus Shale products to ports in Baltimore, Wilmington and Philadelphia, which then ship product all over the world.
Dinniman also supports charging impact fees based on the price of the product, last year’s bill (SB- 557).
“We’re impacted but there’s no impact fee,” Dinniman said. “There is not one cent of profit from Marcellus Shale (products) and gas unless it gets to market.”
(SB-991) would regulate pipeline company land agents.
Dinniman said that several residents have recounted bad experiences, including late night house calls, sometimes before holidays.
The senator favors registering and creating state IDs for pipeline company representatives. Residents would be able to complain to the state about a registered agent, much like they can with a licensed real estate agent.
“If a person is abusive or gives wrong information then you can file an official complaint.”
A series of Dinniman-favored senate bills (SB- 801, 802, 803 and 804) would guarantee residents are properly notified and educated. Pipeline right-of way seizure by eminent domain would need to be approved by a state agency.
Dinniman also supports protecting agricultural conservation easements with a plan to replace land used for pipelines – acre for acre – like is common with mitigation parks, when property is taken by eminent domain.