Government and energy officials are in Washington County today for a two day conference discussing the impact of the energy industry in Pennsylvania.
Thursday’s sessions feature insights from natural gas industry officials as well as DEP Secretary Mike Krancer. Friday, employees of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the company Waste Management, and fiscal analysts will speak, according to events moderator and state Senator Tim Solobay (D-Washington County).
Solobay said he thinks a lot of questions will be focused on new uses for natural gas.
“With the price of gasoline continuing to escalate up and oil prices being what they are,” said Solobay. “The opportunity for us to re-look at our whole energy portfolio as a country and as a region is also going to be talked about, and what we need to do to maybe do the conversion of vehicles from liquid to natural gas and how that would all come about.”
Solobay said he expects talks with regulators to concentrate on Act 13, Pennsylvania’s impact fee law over which seven municipalities sued the state claiming it unconstitutionally strips the power of local governments to control their land and zoning. Commonwealth Court recently overturned parts of Act 13 that would have allowed statewide zoning policies for drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation.
While he understands some municipalities have tough drilling regulations, Solobay said the industry needs state-wide regulation.
“We have uniformity in building codes in the state. We have uniformity of agricultural code in the state that all municipalities kind of have to follow by,” said Solobay. “Many of the municipalities in the commonwealth, right now, have no kind of zoning at all. So the components of the act gave everybody at least a starting point.”
Solobay said many municipalities come to the state and federal government looking for help in regulating the industry, so it makes sense to put regulation in the hands of the state. Critics say local officials know their community’s needs and wishes better. He said the legislature will make changes to Act 13 if they find it needs to be more or less restrictive.