The Pennsylvania legislature has empowered the Public Utility Commission to direct and enforce safety standards for pipeline facilities and to regulate safety practices of certificated utilities engaged in the transportation of natural gas and other gas by pipeline. The Public Utility Commission also has authority to enforce federal pipeline safety laws as they relate to non-public utility gas and hazardous liquids pipeline equipment and facilities within Pennsylvania, including cooperatively owned natural gas distribution systems, non-utility natural gas transportation, and gathering lines and propane distribution systems. More information about non-public utility pipelines may be found on the Act 127 page.
The Commission is authorized to enforce federal safety standards as an agent for the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety. The safety standards apply to the design, installation, operation, inspection, testing, construction, extension, replacement and maintenance of pipeline facilities. The PUC may prescribe additional pipeline safety standards over and above federal standards, provided they are not in conflict.
Whenever the Commission uncovers pipeline safety violations, it is empowered to direct the utility to take necessary steps to correct the violation.
The PUC investigates all methods or practices of pipeline companies, including reports, records and other information. PUC investigators inspect the property, buildings, plants and offices of the pipeline companies and inspect books, records, paper, email and documents relevant to the enforcement of the rules and regulations.
If an inspector finds evidence of a possible violation, a violation report is written. The Gas Safety Section will notify the gas utility of the results of the onsite evaluation, specifically citing the gas pipeline safety regulation the gas utility is apparently violating. The gas utility must answer with a written response to the PUC within 30 days of notification.
The gas utility and the Gas Safety Section will work together to reach an agreement on how to correct the violation. If an agreement can not be reached, the Gas Safety Section can refer the problem to the PUC for formal resolution by issuing a complaint, setting a penalty, or seeking enforcement through the court system.
The Gas Safety Section has six inspectors who are located across the state and who are on call 24 hours a day for emergencies. They check for compliance of the Commission and federal gas pipeline safety regulations to insure compliance by the gas operators.
These regulations are designed to assist operators in recognizing and preventing problems before they become hazardous. In addition, each operator must have a damage prevention program and an emergency response program. The damage prevention program must include provisions to ensure compliance with the state's Underground Utility Protect Act, better known as the One Call Act.
The Gas Safety Section also has the authority to enforce certain federal gas pipeline safety regulations, as set forth in 49 U.S.C. §§ 60101, et seq., and implemented in 49 C.F.R. Parts 191-193, 199.
Gas service information included at this site is directly from the Pennsylvania Code, the Commonwealth's official publication of rules and regulations.
Link to Pa. Code's list of definitions for gas service and safety.