Churches Protest Mariner East 2 Pipeline in Southeast Pennsylvania

by Duane Nichols on December 4, 2017

Anti-pipeline protesters marched at United Church of Christ -- East Goshen Prayer Walk

Demonstrators march in prayer walk to protest Mariner East 2 pipeline

From an Article by Bill Rettew Jr., Daily Local News, West Chester, PA, December 2, 2017

WEST GOSHEN, PA — Three dozen peaceful protesters marched Saturday for a half-mile along the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline right-of-way.

Many of the participants in the pipeline prayer walk are members of the United Church of Christ East Goshen.

Marchers carried signs and paused for prayer a couple of times along Boot Road, starting at Wellington at Hershey’s Mill, where pipeline construction runs within 100 feet of the assisted living facility. They ended up at the Goshen Fire Company.

UCC Pastor and teacher Rev. Angelee Benner-Smith led the group in prayer. She recited the Serenity Prayer and talked of hope.

“We have to believe that we can make a change,” she said. “Pray for hope. Hope does not disappoint us.”

The reverend then asked the demonstrators to act. “Speak of the things we can change. Give us the energy to move forward with hope and your grace.”

The pastor then asked the group what they were thinking. They told her they felt anger, disappointment, frustration, resentment, fear and betrayal by those they had elected.

Eve Miari said that faith communities are paying attention to pipeline construction. Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County and Swarthmore Friends will be holding pipeline-related events Sunday.

The group got down on their knees outside Ss. Peter and Paul Elementary School. Melissa DiBernardino said she has not received an adequate response from school officials.

Her children attend the school, which is less than 100 feet from construction. DiBernardino said that if the pipeline is completed and becomes operational, she will pull her kids from the school that she and her children love.

Al Benner-Smith is Angelee’s husband. He also led the group in prayer. “Remind us every day that the grass and trees and the water and the air is in our control,” he said. “Remind us that all of this is here to sustain us.”

Marchers carried signs that read “No Pipeline-Stop,” “Damage is Not Progress,” and “Respect Our World.”

Al Benner-Smith said after the rally that cooperation helps. “It’s much better when people work together than separately,” he said.

Eric Friedman of the Middletown Coalition and Andover Homeowners Association said that the rally was a “fine way for people to express their concerns” but “more than prayer” is needed to stop the pipeline.

Linda Ardao of West Goshen marched and is a member of the UCC congregation.

“We may take the easy way out on energy and we may need to pursue more environmentally friendly and lower risk ways to get energy,” Ardao said.

Jeff Shields, Sunoco Pipeline Communications Manager, released the following comment: “We support everyone’s right to protest peacefully. We understand that there are differing opinions on infrastructure projects. Safety is our company’s first priority and we have shown our commitment to safety by exceeding federal requirements with thicker pipe, enhanced testing, and X-ray inspection of welds far beyond what regulations call for. We have operated safely in Chester County for nearly a century, and we will continue that tradition with Mariner East 2.”

Plans call for the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline to carry highly volatile liquids, ethane, butane and propane, 350 miles from Marcellus Shale deposits in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania to the former Sunoco Refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Duane Milne December 5, 2017 at 6:15 pm

State Rep. Duane Milne calls for freeze on Mariner East 2 pipeline construction

By Bill Rettew Jr., Pottstown Mercury, December 4, 2017

WEST WHITELAND >> State Rep. Duane Milne, R-167, is calling for a “complete reboot” of the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline. Milne wants Sunoco to immediately and voluntarily pause construction due to pipeline-associated issues and problems.

The wells of more than 30 West Whiteland residences were impacted by horizontal directional drilling. In turn, Sunoco picked up the tab to connect residents to public water providers and paid each household $60,000 to pay for future water bills.

Sunoco has also spilled drilling fluid more than 80 times.

Also in Milnes’ district, Sunoco is considering changing from HDD to open trench burial of the pipe. If trench construction in West Whiteland was used, a creek would need to be dammed and diverted within feet of the Chester County Library.

“There has to be time to address ongoing issue and concerns,” Milne said. “There is a complete lack of confidence. “I don’t think the company could have seen the hydraulic issues impacting the water utilities. We can’t move forward as is.”

Jeff Shields, Sunoco Pipeline Communications Manager, responded to Milne’s comments.

“The Mariner East 2 project has undergone unprecedented environmental review, and our permit conditions include extensive requirements to protect Pennsylvania’s natural resources,” Shields wrote in a Friday news release. “We will continue to work with the DEP to ensure that our construction continues to be in accordance with our agreement before the Environmental Hearing Board.

“The construction of the Mariner East pipeline has been transparent, deliberate, and subject to the strictest environmental standards in the country. We are committed to working to those standards every day.”

Milne suggested that Sunoco would realize a public relations benefit with a pause, and citizens would applaud. He compared the issue to “short term, versus long term viability. “The residents feel they are done trying to be reasonable and accommodating. There is a great sense of non-confidence.”

Milne is opposed to a recent Sunoco change of plans to dig using open trench construction in West Whiteland. “This last minute switch needs a full public vetting,” he said. “Perhaps the public will have a chance to examine and get a chance to understand it.”

Milne is looking ahead. He represents West Whiteland, East Whiteland, West Pikeland, Charlestown , Easttown and Willistown townships and the Borough of Malvern.

Milne said that new pipeline construction is following right of way designed for pipelines built decades ago. “We need to rethink all these pipelines in the developed part of Chester County,” he said.

Milne said that pipelines built decades ago passed through farmer’s fields that since then have been developed.

2017 Chester County is not the Chester County of 1950, he said.

The representative said that changes might not be “feasible” for the Mariner East 2 pipeline, but could have an impact on future projects.

The Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline would snake 350 miles from Marcellus Shale deposits in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania to the former Sunoco Refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.

It is designed to carry highly volatile liquids, ethane, propane and butane, while passing feet away from senior care centers, schools and churches.



Reading Eagle December 5, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Editorial: Pipeline leak shows need for policy updates

Editorial from the Reading Eagle, Berks County, PA, December 4, 2017

That Pennsylvania’s regulation of natural gas drilling is still a work in progress was made clear in the state Department of Environmental Protection’s response to the leak of drilling fluids into a tributary of Hay Creek in New Morgan. Construction of a section of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline was shut down to give the PA-DEP time to investigate the leak, which the agency called an “inadvertent return” as a result of horizontal directional drilling.

Alerted to a leak on Nov. 11, the PA-DEP said it determined – thanks to a November 13 inspection by the Berks County Conservation District – that the leak was industrial waste into waterways without a permit and a violation of Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law. Appropriately, the state agency responded quickly to the report and stopped construction to avoid any potential damage to Hay Creek, a Class A wild trout fishery and a basin containing what are classified as “exceptional value waters.”

Though the fluids released were not hazardous – mostly water with some bentonite clay, a nontoxic mixture used to lubricate drill bits – in large quantities they could damage aquifers and aquatic habitat. A 2004 state management plan for Hay Creek called the Hay Creek Watershed “one of 23 Critical Treasure Areas in Pennsylvania” and noted that two of its tributaries are sources of drinking water for Birdsboro. The PA-DEP did not name the tributary where the leak was found but, given that Hay Creek is tied to drinking water tributaries, the PA-DEP was right to stop Sunoco’s drilling.”Both the discharge into waters of the commonwealth and operating without a permit are considered serious violations of Pennsylvania law,” PA-DEP spokesman Neil Shader said in an email last week. “PA-DEP is evaluating all potential enforcement options pending the results of the ongoing investigation.”

So far, so good, but the PA-DEP’s response to the November leak indicates a gap in the agency’s oversight of drilling in Pennsylvania.

“Part of the reason we don’t have that exact volume is because it was taking place in an area that was not permitted for horizontal directional drilling,” Shader said, “so the typical policies that we have in place for HDD and the inadvertent returns associated with it weren’t being followed.”

Sunoco says it has followed the rules.

“We have worked diligently throughout the design and construction of the Mariner East 2 project to minimize environmental impacts according to the stringent conditions laid out in our permits,” Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said in an email. “We are working with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to address these notices, and we will provide the PA-DEP with detailed information in formal responses.”

Clearly PA-DEP’s policies need an update. Counting on an industry to follow the rules appears to have been not quite enough to protect Hay Creek once Sunoco’s horizontal drilling went beyond its permitted range, as the PA-DEP says happened.

Given how quickly the natural gas industry has grown in Pennsylvania with drilling in the Marcellus shale, PA-DEP deserves time to develop its regulatory policies, and the General Assembly should be open to suggestions for additional laws if needed. DEP handled the leak into Hay Creek well to start, and we encourage it to complete this investigation in a timely fashion and update its policies for any similar incident in the future.



Daniel Walmer December 30, 2017 at 9:59 pm

Pipeline work resumes after another Lebanon County ‘drilling mud’ spill

From Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News, Dec. 28, 2017

Local organic farmer Phi Stober, who is running for West Cornwall Township Supervisor, explains why he finds the recent problems with pipeline construction so concerning.

Sunoco has resumed construction of the Mariner East 2 natural gas pipeline in western Lebanon County following a spill of “drilling mud” that entered a wetland area.

It’s the fourth unauthorized discharge of drilling mud in Lebanon County since Sunoco began construction in June, according to a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection list.

Drilling mud is a mixture of water and bentonite clay that is non-toxic but has been blamed for clouding and reduced water flow in Chester County wells. It is used in horizontal directional drilling, a process that places the pipeline under roadways or environmentally sensitive areas where digging an open trench is not feasible.

The most recent spill occurred on Dec. 20 north of Bachmanville Road and west of Schoolhouse Road in South Londonderry Township, according to PA-DEP records. About 50 gallons were released into an upland area, then ran downslope into a wetland. The spill has been stopped and cleanup is in progress.

The DEP permitted Sunoco to resume drilling on December 21st, conditioned on Sunoco’s submission of a report about the incident and a re-evaluation of drilling at the location, according to a letter from the PA-DEP to Sunoco.

“We are committed to following the conditions of our permits, which include specific plans to respond to returns of drilling mud. In this case, the mud was contained and recovered according to those plans,” said Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields in an email. “This event caused a temporary impact to the wetland, which has been remediated. We resumed construction with approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.”

The PA-DEP had instructed Sunoco in late October, in the context of a violation at Snitz Creek, to develop a plan that prevented spills of 50 gallons or greater, rather than only treating them after they occur.

When completed, the Mariner East 2 pipeline will transport natural gas liquids from Marcellus Shale-rich areas of Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia.

Timeline of Mariner East 2 pipeline construction incidents in Lebanon County

June 2017: Sunoco begins construction in Lebanon County for the Mariner East 2 pipeline.
July: An initial list of “drilling mud” spills released by DEP reveals there were four incidents within Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area.
Aug. 26: The Palmyra Sportsmen’s Club says that almost 70 trout died at a hatchery as a result of runoff from Mariner East 2 construction. Sunoco receives a notice of violation from DEP stemming from the incident.
September: The DEP reports about 50 gallons of “drilling mud” were spilled into Snitz Creek south of Lebanon on Sept. 6. A smaller spill in Snitz Creek occurs about three weeks later.
Oct. 5: The West Cornwall Township supervisors hold a press conference detailing a Sunoco blast gone wrong. The blast caused debris to strike a nearby home, and afterward, water tests revealed unusually high levels of Benzene. Sunoco began providing bottled water to one farm in the township.
Oct. 27: The DEP rejects Sunoco’s plan for treating “drilling mud” spills following one of the Snitz Creek spills. The DEP asks Sunoco to better explain how to prevent such spills, rather than simply remediate them after the fact.
Oct. 31: Sunoco receives a notice of violation from DEP because of sediment flowing into a tributary of Killinger Creek.



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