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DEP Shuts down pipeline construction Groups put pressure on Wolf to halt Mariner East 2 construction Useful Links

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Pennsylvania DEP shuts down construction on Sunoco gas pipeline project.


By Bill Rettew, brettew@dailylocal,com

Posted: 01/03/18, 5:25 PM EST | Updated: 21 hrs ago

WEST GOSHEN >> Already several months behind schedule, construction of the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline was hit with another major setback Wednesday when the state Department of Environmental Protection shut down all construction on the project.

Work on the pipeline was indefinitely suspended statewide by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which said the project would remain stalled until Sunoco complies with the terms of its permitting process.

The ruling comes in the wake of the most recent problem with the project, with the DEP citing the company for drilling without the proper permitting in a section of the pipeline near Harrisburg.

The company has said it is trying to abide by the DEP permitting rules and regulations. The state is now demanding Sunoco come up with a plan to address the problems with Mariner East 2.

Sunoco Pipeline LP can do only basic maintenance of equipment on-site, maintenance of erosion control and limited maintenance of horizontal drilling, according to the state agency’s edict.

Under the order, the DEP noted that construction will cease until Sunoco submits a detailed operations plan outlining additional measures to control and minimize inadvertent returns.

Sunoco has discharged drilling fluid more than 100 times, including four times this fall, during a four-day time period, at the same location in East Goshen Township.

Sunoco also must also address the impact to private wells in Silver Spring Township, near Harrisburg, where a recent spill occurred during drilling that was outside the scope of the permits issued to Sunoco, according to DEP.

Earlier this summer, Sunoco fouled drinking water wells in about 30 West Whiteland Township wells and then hooked up homeowners to public water and awarded each homeowner $60,000.

The pipeline company will also need to better address environmental permitting regulations, the DEP order stated.

Gov. Tom Wolf has been under increasing pressure from elected officials and citizen groups to halt construction on the pipeline until a new safety study on the project could be completed.

Wolf’s press secretary J.J. Abbott issued a statement Wednesday.

“Gov. Wolf has made clear from the onset that he expects DEP to hold all permittees accountable to the conditions and requirements of Pennsylvania law which are implemented in all permits that are issued. DEP today is doing just that,” Abbott said. “This suspension will remain in place until the operator demonstrates compliance with the administrative order that DEP issued. This provides assurance that going forward it will uphold all obligations under the strict permits issued for this project.

“It is incredibly important that operators adhere to the terms of their permit. A failure to do so puts jobs for the citizens of our commonwealth and investment in our communities at risk.”

The head of the DEP said in light of recent reports of new problems with pipeline work, the state had little choice.

“Until Sunoco can demonstrate that the permit conditions can and will be followed, DEP has no alternative but to suspend the permits,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We are living up to our promise to hold this project accountable to the strong protections in the permits.”

Jeff Shields, Sunoco Pipeline Communications Manager responded.

“We received an order this morning from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that instructed us to suspend construction activities in Pennsylvania with respect to Mariner East 2 until reauthorized by the Pennsylvania DEP,” Shields said. “The order requires us to submit various reports related to current and future construction activities. We intend to expeditiously submit these reports and we are confident that we will be reauthorized to commence work on this project promptly. We also reiterate our commitment to the highest levels of construction expertise and our dedication to preserving and protecting the environment in which we conduct our work.”

State Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, along with six Chester and Delaware county residents, met with Gov. Wolf on Dec. 20.

“I thank the people for speaking loudly and persistently,” Comitta said. “I also thank the governor for listening to the concerns of our citizens and making public safety a priority.”

Melissa DiBernardino, of East Goshen Township, also spoke to the governor on Dec. 20.

“This is absolutely needed but it’s only a small part of it,” DiBernardino said. “It’s not addressing what is rightfully ours – our safety.”

Karen Feridun, Pennsylvania resident and founder of Berks Gas Truth, added: “The Department of Environmental Protection’s temporary suspension of Sunoco’s permits is a toothless act that falls far short of providing any real protection to communities in the path of the Mariner East 2 pipeline. The company has demonstrated itself to be indifferent to public health, safety, and property rights and to the regulatory process. It’s time for the DEP to shut down this unnecessary and dangerous pipeline once and for all.”

Eric Friedman is spokesperson for the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety has been busy fighting the pipeline from his home turf in Delaware County.

“The governor has been asked by thousands of concerned Pennsylvanians to halt the construction and assess the risk to vulnerable, dense populations across our commonwealth,” Friedman wrote. “Rather than addressing this request, Gov. Wolf directed his Department of Environmental Protection to take long-overdue enforcement action with respect to massive destruction associated with Sunoco’s botched and willfully noncompliant construction activities.”

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, has helped lead the charge against construction.

“Residents in Chester County and throughout the commonwealth have built a strong and widespread grassroots coalition dedicated to asserting their rights and voices in the face of the growing network of pipelines crisscrossing our state,” Dinniman sated Wednesday. “This latest development is a testament to their strength, determination, and advocacy. We called for a halt to the pipeline in July, we took the message directly to Harrisburg in the fall, and I personally pushed for it again as early as yesterday.

“Although I am thrilled to see these efforts gaining traction and getting results, this is by no means an end to this process. And I, as state senator, will continue to meet my constitutional responsibility to stand with and for the health, safety and well-being of my constituents, while demanding that others, including state departments and agencies do the same.”

State Rep. Duane Milne, R-167, also commented on Wednesday.

“In conjunction with other public officials, I have been expressing my concerns and raising objections to this project, given the numerous problems encountered along its path. This was the right decision at this point. As I have called for in the past: this project needs a complete reboot.

“Numerous concerns regarding public safety, geological conditions and environmental protection continue, quite rightly, to be raised. These must be addressed in the process of determining the future viability of this particular pipeline route. Until a thorough review takes place, the project should not move forward.

“Rather than changing the subject, the governor should recognize and act on his responsibility to assess new threats to public safety, like those imposed by Sunoco’s recklessly conceived Mariner East.”

State Rep. Becky Corbin, R-155, issued a Wednesday statement: “I’m pleased to see that DEP has taken action against Sunoco to protect the health and safety of the commonwealth’s residents and visitors. On numerous occasions, I wrote to DEP regarding concerns I had about work on the project in my legislative district. Sensitive environmental features cannot be replaced once lost. In addition, it is important that potential public safety concerns are addressed to prevent a tragedy.”

State Sen. John C. Rafferty Jr., R-44, said the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s decision to temporarily suspend construction permits associated with the Mariner East 2 pipeline is a victory for public safety and environmental protection.

“The safety and well-being of our citizens should always be our top priority and I commend the governor for his action today,” Rafferty said. “I and my colleagues, Senator Andy Dinniman and Representative Becky Corbin, along with our engaged citizen pipeline safety coalitions, have specifically requested that the governor take the necessary step that he took today. Now before moving forward, we must make certain that Sunoco complies with our laws and regulations and respects the health and welfare of all of our citizens.”

State Rep. Chris Quinn, R-168, suggested a course of caution.

“Once Sunoco corrects all of its violations, and allows drilling to occur in a safe manner, the company must remain vigilant and continue to responsibly operate and maintain the pipeline to ensure public safety,” Quinn said. “I am calling on Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration to conduct a full risk assessment to analyze the potentially catastrophic harm that a leak or other malfunction could cause.

“This pipeline will run directly through densely populated neighborhoods and right past schools, leaving our children highly vulnerable. We must know the risk and we must know it before drilling resumes.”

State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161, said she was “relieved” to see construction halted.

“Construction on the Mariner East 2 pipeline across Pennsylvania — but especially in Delaware and Chester counties — has impacted drinking water, wreaked havoc on private property, and posed a grave danger to our citizens,” she said. “Sunoco Logistics has shown a blatant disregard for these things that we hold dear and which are protected by our state Constitution. I thank Governor Wolf and Secretary McDonnell for their attention to this issue and for suspending the construction of this pipeline.”

Sam Rubin, of the environmental group Food and Water, went a step further, urging Wolf to shut down the project altogether.

“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but the only responsible course of action for Gov. Wolf is to stop the Mariner East 2 altogether,” Rubin said. “This project, which was greenlighted with flawed permits, was never going to be safe for the people of Pennsylvania.

“What we really need is a full and permanent halt to construction and a full, transparent, and public assessment of the risks associated with the Mariner East 2. The movement to stop the pipeline will be using this temporary halt to build the power we know we’ll need to protect communities from Mariner East once and for all.”

Kurt Knaus, a spokesperson of the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, offered a contrasting opinion, urging a quick settlement of the dispute so work on the pipeline can resume.

“Sunoco and DEP should work expeditiously to resolve this matter in order for safe pipeline construction to continue – not just for the benefit of the workers who may be idled, but also for the full protection of Pennsylvania’s environment,” Knaus wrote in a Wednesday release. “Industry experts agree that actions that cause construction and horizontal directional drilling to start and stop, start and stop have the potential for even greater harm.

“This project remains critically important for our commonwealth. Sunoco and DEP should work expeditiously to resolve this matter so safe construction can resume and this vital project can get back on track.”

The $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 project is projected to ferry as much as 250,000 barrels of gases such as butane, ethane and propane across the full width of the state, from the Marcellus Shale regions to the former Sunoco refinery complex in Marcus Hook.

“Clean Air Council applauds Governor Wolf’s DEP for finally standing up and taking this necessary action in response to Sunoco’s pattern of blatant disregard for public health and safety, Pennsylvania drinking water supplies, and other natural resources,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “We look forward to DEP holding Sunoco accountable on this suspension and all future actions that may need to be taken to protect Pennsylvania residents.”

Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Director Joanne Kilgour issued the following statement: “The spills and legal violations of the Mariner East 2 are exactly why Pennsylvanians and the Sierra Club opposed this project from the beginning. Local residents along the pipeline route have organized to defend the health and safety of their communities, warning that the Mariner East 2 would cause pollution and impact private water supplies. DEP’s decision to suspend the permits required for construction affirms that the concerns raised by these community members were valid, and that the pipeline should never have been approved in the first place. We hope the Wolf Administration will take this opportunity to re-evaluate its insufficient approach to the permitting of pipeline projects and other fossil fuel projects throughout Pennsylvania.”

Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said Wednesday that the organization helped negotiate some of the permitting rules.

“Today’s order from DEP ultimately represents DEP’s understanding that Sunoco shamelessly broke a number of terms and conditions that Delaware Riverkeeper Network and others helped secure through litigation with the department in a settlement agreement, van Rossum said. “This project was flawed from the start, and it is disgraceful that these flaws have manifested themselves in such a way that the public’s health, and environment have been significantly impacted.

“This order provides further evidence that the project should never have been authorized by DEP in the first place.”

West Goshen activist Tom Casey had the last word: “It would seem that the efforts of so many people, who are fighting for our rights, have gotten through to state officials. Due to Sunoco’s low standards, lack of expertise in pipeline coordination, and inability to follow the rules, the DEP has provided a crucial first step in holding them accountable. But there is more that needs to be done. We are demanding, for the sake of the countless thousands of residents, workers, and commuters who are near these lines, that the governor has a quantitative risk analysis completed for every township. We still do not know the extent of the danger that hardworking Pennsylvanians are being asked to accept along the Mariner East 2 pipeline path.


DEP accuses Sunoco of unauthorized drilling

By Bill Rettew,

Posted: 01/02/18, 3:49 PM EST

SILVER SPRING TOWNSHIP >> Sunoco is again feeling the heat after the Department of Environmental Protection accused the pipeline builder of drilling without authorization.

The DEP alleges that Sunoco impacted two fresh water wells on Dec. 18, about 10 miles west of Harrisburg, when utilizing horizontal directional drilling, without authorization. The 350-mile Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline is now under construction.

The DEP maintains that the approved method of pipeline installation at that location was by open trench.

The DEP also alleges that a Nov. 17 inspection in Berks County also revealed unauthorized drilling.

Sediment first showed up in a West Whiteland Township couple’s well water in July. Sunoco later agreed to hook up about 30 residents to public water and pay each homeowner $60,000.

Sunoco was also rebuked for likely causing a six-foot backyard sinkhole in West Whiteland and not reporting it in a timely fashion.

Kathryn Urbanowicz, staff attorney with Clean Air Council, fired off a letter to associates.

“For this secret, unauthorized drilling to happen even once is outrageous,” she wrote. “For it to happen twice – that we are aware of — makes an utter mockery of DEP and all the calls of the public for increased safety and transparency.

“It is painfully clear the DEP’s enforcement efforts are not consequential enough for Sunoco to deem it worthwhile to follow the law.”

The DEP alleges that the permittee (Sunoco) was not authorized to use horizontal directional drilling at the central Pennsylvania site.

The Dec. 22 notice of violation reads: “A request to modify the permit must be submitted by the permittee and approved by DEP before the permittee may commence any construction or earth disturbance activities that are not included in the information submitted in support of the application.”

Plans call for the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline to stretch from Marcellus Shale deposits in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, to the former Sunoco Refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.

Jeff Shields, Sunoco Pipeline Communication Manager, released the following statement Tuesday:

“The Clean Air Council is making statements that are simply false. We have made every effort in the construction of this more than 300-mile project to respect and follow the stringent conditions of our environmental permits.

“In instances where a different construction method was used other than what was outlined in the permit, the method chosen had a lesser environmental impact. We are working with the DEP to address any construction issues and to ensure that any changes to permitted activities are approved in advance.

“Regarding the Clean Air Council’s water claims, there have been no wells impacted in Cumberland County in the way they suggest. We did have some residents complain of a drop in water levels, which we are investigating. Finally, nothing we do in building this important infrastructure project is ‘secret.’

“All our construction is subject to extensive and unprecedented agency oversight and reporting requirements, which are published by the DEP, making Mariner East 2 not only the largest construction project to date in Pennsylvania, but also the most transparent.”

Urbanowicz said during a Tuesday phone interview that the violations were not accidents.

“It seems like Sunoco is making a decision to go against the environmental protections in place,” she said. “They’re undermining the whole process and the public’s ability to protect itself.”

The DEP required Sunoco to submit daily construction logs, including logs, covering the time when drilling started.

Those logs should document each day of activity, start and stop times for drilling, stage of drilling process, approximate progress, drill pressure, depth of cover, and any loss of pressure or drilling fluids.

Sunoco was also reminded that it had to offer well water users located within 450 feet of all horizontal directional drilling sites free water sampling, before, during and after the start of drilling.


DEP accuses Sunoco of unauthorized drilling Pennsylvania DEP shuts down construction on Sunoco gas pipeline project.

“It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” — Grace Hopper

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