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HB 1023: Include Rural Natural Gas Gathering Lines in Pipeline Regulation

Given TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline spill in Marshall County in November, one would think the last bill we’d see in the hopper would be a bill to “repeal certain provisions regarding pipeline safety.” Thus, you can understand why House Bill 1023, which bears exactly that title, caught my eye.

Luckily, HB 1023 has nothing to do with TransCanada’s oopsies or oil pipelines. Requested by the Public Utilities Commission, the bill actually deals with natural gas and appears to increase regulation. HB 1023 repeals SDCL 49-34B-2, which exempts “rural gathering facilities” from the Pipeline Safety chapter. “Rural gathering facilities” are pipelines outside of towns that are “used to collect and transport natural gas from the well and related production facilities to transmission or distribution pipelines….” Gathering lines used to be smaller and seemed to pose less risk, but as the Natural Resources Defense Council noted in 2010, “many gathering lines today are as big as, or bigger than, many transmission lines and may operate at the same extremely high pressures.”

HB 1023 thus seems a perfectly sensible bit of regulation, treating all natural gas pipelines as cause for caution and PUC oversight.

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