Senate Passes Bills To Expand Natural Gas Distribution Systems
The Senate Wednesday passed Senate Bill 738 and Senate Bill 739 to provide local natural gas service to un-served and under-served areas of Pennsylvania sponsored by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware).
“The impetus for these bills started in Bradford County about two years ago,” Sen. Yaw said. “The Center for Rural Pennsylvania held a hearing and during the course of that hearing it became apparent that a significant part of Pennsylvania was not served by natural gas, although we’re sitting on one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world. These bills will provide the opportunity for residents to obtain gas service should they choose that source of energy.”
“Having abundance of affordable natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation gives Pennsylvania a unique opportunity to cut costs for homeowners and to encourage economic growth across the state,” Sen. Pileggi said. “These bills make smart investments to allow us to take advantage of this new energy supply.”
Senate Bill 738, known as the Natural Gas Consumer Access Act, will require every natural gas distribution utility operating in Pennsylvania to submit a three-year plan to the Public Utility Commission, outlining the utility’s plans for extension and expansion projects. The PUC will have the option to reject, revise or order the utility to submit a revised plan for adequacy and completeness and do periodic reviews.
Senate Bill 738 will also create a system providing for expedited extension or expansion projects if an economic development agency or a large number of residential, commercial or industrial entities want to seek to obtain natural gas service. Further, this legislation allows a potential natural gas customer to spread project costs over a 10 year period, rather than full up-front costs that are currently required today.
Senate Bill 739 will amend the Alternative Energy Investment Act to provide for $20 million for grants to schools, hospitals and small businesses to obtain access to natural gas service. The funding will come from existing, under-utilized programs. Grants made under Senate Bill 739 may provide up to half of the cost of a project.
"There is widespread interest in seeing locally produced natural gas used locally to benefit our area businesses and homeowners," Sen. Yaw added. "Senator Pileggi and I commend our colleagues for supporting these bills."
The bills now go to the House for consideration.
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