Sunoco Accused of Violating Drilling Rules by PA-DEP for Mariner East 2 Pipeline. All Construction Halted

by Duane Nichols on January 3, 2018

Mariner East 2 parallels Mariner East from OH & WV to the Delaware River

Pennsylvania DEP accuses Sunoco of unauthorized drilling and polluting

From an Article by Bill Rettew, Daily Local News, West Chester, PA, January 2, 2018

SILVER SPRING TOWNSHIP >> Sunoco is again feeling the heat after the PA Department of Environmental Protection accused the pipeline builder of drilling without authorization. The 350-mile Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline is now under construction.

The PA-DEP alleges that Sunoco impacted two fresh water wells on December 18, about 10 miles west of Harrisburg, when utilizing horizontal directional drilling, without authorization. The PA-DEP maintains that the approved method of pipeline installation at that location was by open trench.

The PA-DEP also alleges that a November 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 PA-DEP and all the calls of the public for increased safety and transparency.” Also: “It is painfully clear the PA-DEP’s enforcement efforts are not consequential enough for Sunoco to deem it worthwhile to follow the law.”

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

The December 22 notice of violation reads: “A request to modify the permit must be submitted by the permittee and approved by PA-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 PA-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 PA-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 PA-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.


State halts Mariner East II pipeline construction over environmental violations

Article by Jacob Tierney, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, January 3, 2017

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has ordered Sunoco Logistics LP to stop work on the 306-mile, $2.5 billion Mariner East II pipeline.

Sunoco violated its permits, using unauthorized drilling methods that leaked nontoxic drilling fluid into trout streams and water wells across the state, according to the DEP.

The state discovered Sunoco was using unauthorized drilling methods after learning of a drilling fluid leak into a Berks County creek in November, according to the DEP order.

Over the next few weeks, the state discovered numerous other sites in Berks, Blair, Cumberland, Dauphin, Huntingdon, Perry and Washington counties where unauthorized drilling methods were being used, often resulting in drill fluid leaking into nearby bodies of water, several of which were designated trout streams, according to the DEP.

Sunoco’s permits for the affected areas called for digging a trench to install the pipeline. Instead the company used horizontal directional drilling — which takes place almost entirely underground.

“They are bound by the permit conditions, and in this case they violated them by using different techniques,” said DEP spokesman Neil Shader. “Our inspectors have to be aware of what is going where when they go out to do spot checks and other inspections.”

The DEP has recorded more than 100 “inadvertent returns” — leaks of drilling fluid and other liquids — related to the construction of the pipeline since May. These range from tiny spills of less than a pint to 160,000 gallons leaked into a Cumberland County wetland. There were 20 spills in Westmoreland County, mostly around Loyalhanna Lake.

Under the DEP order, Sunoco must immediately stop all work previously authorized by state DEP permits, which cover all 17 of the Pennsylvania counties spanned by the pipeline, until a slew of conditions are met.

According to the order, Sunoco has 30 days to submit a full report of any trout streams crossed by the pipeline, along with a report of any other sites that use unpermitted drilling techniques, a list of all drilling contractors and subcontractors associated with the project, an explanation of how and why the permits were violated and a plan to prevent further violations.

Sunoco must also replace or restore private wells in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County, where property owners reported cloudy water as a result of unauthorized drilling, according to the DEP.

“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,” Kurt Knaus, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, said in a statement.

Municipal leaders in Westmoreland County said as far as they know local drilling for the pipeline is already done, or nearly so.

“What I see through the township here is they’ve got some dressing up to do, but they’re pretty much done,” said Salem Township Supervisor Robert Zundel.

A December newsletter from Sunoco said work on the project was 91 percent done, with work in Washington, Allegheny and Westmoreland counties 84 percent complete.

A judge previously halted work on the project in July when Sunoco was accused of violating a 2015 settlement with West Goshen Township, but work resumed the next month when a settlement was reached.

The 20- and 16-inch pipelines will be able to carry 275,000 barrels of liquid natural gas a day and cross 270 properties over 36 miles in Westmoreland County. The new pipelines will run parallel to the existing Mariner East I line.

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