State Senate OKs bills on gas service

Efforts to provide local natural gas service to unserved and underserved areas of Pennsylvania were passed by the state Senate last week.

Senate Bills 738 and 739, sponsored by Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, and Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester, will foster the extension and expansion of natural gas service to residential, commercial and industrial sites.

“The impetus for these bills started in Bradford County about two years ago,” 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.”

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.

The bill also will 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.

The legislation allows a potential natural gas customer to spread project costs over a 10 year period, rather than full up-front costs that are presently required.

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-used programs. Grants made under Senate Bill 739 may provide up to half of the cost of a project.

The bills now move to the House for consideration.