DEP suspends Mariner East II pipeline project

DEP suspends Mariner East II pipeline project

Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, January 3, 2018/Categories: News and Views

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Wednesday announced it has suspended Sunoco’s permit to build out the Mariner East II pipeline after repeated violations following the restart of the project in August following a prior temporary suspension.


According to the order, issued by DEP on Wednesday, the suspension will last until Sunoco can prove to DEP that it has implemented policies to remedy permit violations.


“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.”


The pipeline project is anticipated to be built out from Washington County, Pennsylvania, and head east where it will end in Marcus Hook, Delaware County, at a Sunoco refinery that will process the natural gas and liquid petroleum.


Primary among the concerns noted by DEP are recent revelations that Sunoco had engaged in improper horizontal drilling in the construction of the pipeline that recently impacted private drinking water wells in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County.


The violations in Silver Spring Township were the latest in what has amounted to dozens of violations by Sunoco of their construction permit since May of this year.


As such DEP pointed to specific corrections that Sunoco must make in order to have the suspension lifted, namely: addressing all impacts to private water wells in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County; identifying all in-progress or upcoming construction activities and detail the specific Chapter 102 and Chapter 105 permit under which the activity is authorized; and submitting a detailed Operations Plan outlining additional measures and controls to minimize inadvertent returns.


The suspension of the pipeline project was met with a positive response from several lawmakers in the pipeline’s construction zone.


One, Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester), sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf last month asking him to suspend the pipeline project.


“In my district alone, pipeline construction has contaminated almost two dozen wells, disrupted businesses, created significant environmental damage, and resulted in the development of an expanding sinkhole that currently threatens at least two private homes and is within 100 feet of Amtrak’s Keystone Line,” he wrote.


Responding to the news Wednesday, freshman Rep. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) said the suspension puts public safety first and responds to constituent concerns.


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


Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky (D-Delaware) noted that the suspension comes after significant public outcry and environmental damage in Delaware and Chester counties.


“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."

Republican Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) also praised the decision.

“The safety and well-being of our citizens should always be our top priority and I commend the Governor for his action today,” he 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.”


The order sets out a number of specific timelines and filings that Sunoco must meet in order to have the suspension lifted.


In response to the order, Sunoco Logistics spokesperson Jeff Shields said the company will work to submit the required documentation according to DEP’s timelines.


"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," he 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."


The pipeline project was anticipated to be finished this year, but it was unclear how or if the suspension announced Wednesday would impact the ability of Sunoco to meet that timeline.