Risk Assessment Necessary for Sunoco Mariner East 2 Pipeline Project

by Duane Nichols on January 26, 2018

Sunoco Mariner East 2 Pipeline appears “high risk” for residents

Editorial: Bring on the pipeline risk assessment study

Editorial of the Delaware County Daily Times, Swarthmore (Pa), January 25, 2018

A community group has asked Delaware County Council to do a risk assessment on the Mariner East 2 pipeline project, seen in the photo during construction. Council has agreed to the request.

Don’t look now, but those who for months have opposed Sunoco’s massive $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 pipeline project have just scored a couple of significant victories.

First, the PA state Department of Environmental Protection halted all construction on the pipeline project across the state. The PA-DEP cited “egregious” problems that have plagued work on the pipeline now for months, including several discharges and spills. In at least one instance, private water wells in Chester County were disturbed.

The state also noted that Sunoco Pipeline LP, the offshoot of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which is planning to move hundreds of thousands of barrels of volatile gases across the state, from the Marcellus Shale region to Marcus Hook, had done some work for which it was not permitted. Mostly, it involved a controversial drilling technique called Horizontal Directional Drilling, which the company utilizes in tricky areas and which they say is actually less destructive to the environment.

But they got caught doing it out near Harrisburg in an area where they were not permitted to do so. So the PA-DEP finally shut down all work until Sunoco can come in with a report telling them how they plan to avoid any more mishaps and adhere to all PA-DEP regulations. Sunoco says it plans to do just that.

Then this week a group of citizens opposed to the pipeline appeared before Delaware County Council asking them to support their push for a full risk assessment study of the project and its effects on the county.

Council, which was one of the early supporters of the pipeline plan and the economic boost it held for the county, agreed.

Council Chairman John McBlain and new Democratic Councilman Brian Zidek will set up the parameters for the study, then council will put the project out for bid for outside consultants.

It’s one of the persistent cries of those who have watched in horror as Mariner East 2 has cut an ugly path through the county. Sunoco, having been granted the crucial public utility status by the courts years ago, went about acquiring property as close as possible to an existing pipeline, Mariner East 1. That line, which used to ferry oil to the refinery at Marcus Hook, already is up and running delivering the kind of ethane, butane and propane that for the most part will be stored at the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex before being shipped to markets overseas.

Look, putting in a pipeline is not pretty. And one look at the neighborhoods where Mariner East 2 has come in – 11 miles across western Delaware County and another 25 miles across Chester County – can easily attest to that. Eventually, Sunoco insists, the landscape will be restored and no one will know the pipeline is there. After all, pipelines are not exactly a new idea in this area of the state. There are hundreds of miles of pipeline criss-crossing all kinds of neighborhoods.

But none will carry the kind – or the amount – of materials that Mariner East 2 will ferry across Delaware County. Through densely populated neighborhoods. A few hundred feet from elementary schools such as Glenwood Elementary in Middletown.

Those who stand against the pipeline don’t buy all the hype about the economic benefits of this project. They are leery of almost anything Sunoco says, and they have the scars to prove it.

But while they grudgingly admit there is an economic benefit to the pipeline, they continue to question why that necessarily overrules their safety concerns, their hardships during construction, their property values, and their worries about problems once the pipeline is up and running.

And they question why no risk assessment was done before the project was approved.

In fact, several state legislators, including state Rep. Chris Quinn, R-168 of Middletown, and Chester County Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19 of West Whiteland, have fired off letters to Gov. Tom Wolf asking for exactly that.

“There is no example of a pipeline of that size with this sort of material running through a built-up area like our county,” George Alexander of Media told County Council.

Eve Miari, a member of the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety, one of the most vocal critics of Mariner East 2, said no governing body in the state has stepped up to answer questions or at least delve into the potential for a problem.

“We have a huge regulatory gap where no one at the federal or state level is looking out for the safety of the residents and you have an out-of-state corporation basically putting their pipeline through the regulatory hole,” Miari told council.

For their part, Sunoco and their backers among labor unions and the oil and natural gas industry, insist that they are following all state regulations in construction of Mariner East 2, and that it is being installed and will be operated to the highest industry standards.

Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields responded to the move by County Council by saying the project has been “thoroughly vetted” by federal, state and local agencies. He pointed out that pipelines have been used to move natural gas and other materials safely across Pennsylvania for nearly 100 years, including in many areas across Delaware County, and in close proximity to schools, hospitals, senior living facilities and homes.

“We have been living with these pipelines safely for decades, and we know that pipelines are the safest way to transport petroleum products,” Shields said. Opponents remain unconvinced. And the tide just might be turning in their direction. It’s late in the game, but their questions are not going to go away. It might be the only way to resolve their concerns. Bring on the risk assessment.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

West Chester PA February 3, 2018 at 2:09 am

Editorial: Risk-y business: Pipeline study hits a new snag

The Delaware County Times, West Chester, PA, 2/2/18

This is the Mariner East 2 version of Groundhog Day. Or at least for that much-desired risk assessment study that opponents of this massive project have been seeking now for months.

Any number of citizen groups have been seeking to have one done. At one point Middletown Council actually decided to do one. Elected officials have beseeched Gov. Tom Wolf to do one. Those calls have been met for the most part by silence.

Last week a group of citizens – many of whom have seen this behemoth cut through their neighborhoods – asked Delaware County Council to perform a risk assessment study on Mariner East 2.

The thought process has not changed, at least among those opposed to this $2.5 billion project. They believe this plan, pushing hundreds of thousands of barrels of volatile material such as ethane, propane and butane under high pressure from the Marcellus Shale region across the entire width of Pennsylvania – including big swaths of Delaware and Chester counties – is not such a swell idea.

They have heard the proponents’ talk about the economic impact of the project, and they remain steadfast, wondering if whatever economic gain is derived is worth the risk of putting this pipeline into densely populated neighborhoods, next to schools and senior centers.

Last week County Council gave the initial OK for a risk assessment study. Wednesday, they woke up and apparently saw their shadow, predicting another delay in any study of the plan.

You can put those corks back in the bottles celebrating a big win for critics of Mariner East 2. Council tabled any decision, at least for another week.

In giving their initial OK last week, Council set up a committee including Republican Chairman John McBlain and new Democratic Councilman Brian Zidek to lay out the parameters of a risk assessment study.

Wednesday they returned to report their findings to the rest of Council, and that’s when things bogged down.

Chairman McBlain, who has made clear his position supporting the pipeline, suggested simply expanding on some of the studies that have already been performed by the county’s Local Emergency Planning Committee.

That didn’t sit all that well with Zidek, who has not taken a position one way or the other in terms of Mariner East 2. He questioned the depth of the study performed by the LEPC and doubted that findings from such a group likely would not ease the public’s concerns about the project, especially since so many members have strong ties to the pipeline.

But of course this didn’t end there.

The Democrat felt the need to point out McBlain’s legal ties to Sunoco, whose parent company Energy Transfer Partners is constructing the pipeline through their Sunoco Pipeline LP affiliate.

As you might expect, that didn’t sit especially well with McBlain, who pointed out that while his firm, made up of more than 100 attorneys, has represented Suncoo, he personally has never done any legal work for them. Then he fired back that he understands that Zidek is distrustful of the local committee and county government in general and the Democrat no doubt would love to “set up a different commission, made up partly of special-interest groups that are your supporters.”

Get used to it, folks. This is likely the way county government is going to work at this point, now that Zidek and fellow Democrat Kevin Madden have brought two-party government to what was the uniformity of one 5-0 vote after another through decades of all-Republican rule.

There was one more surprise at Wednesday’s council meeting. The vote to table the motion, instead of adopting McBlain’s plan, was 3-2. Republican Councilman Michael Culp sided with McBlain. But fellow Republican Colleen Morrone did something you don’t see every day – at least not in the Media Courthouse. She sided with the Democrats.

“I think there’s a little more discussion that can enhance a recommendation to make sure we’ve addressed this properly,” Morrone said. “I think we’re very close to it.”

Let’s hope so.

Because the bickering doesn’t change the angst, unease and concerns of those opposed to the pipeline.

Let’s keep one thing clear. No one asked for this project to come into their neighborhood. After winning a crucial court ruling that granted it public utility status, Sunoco went about acquiring property in a way that was contiguous with the existing pipeline, one by the way that is already in operation carrying exactly the same materials destined to flow through Mariner East 2, albeit in smaller quantities.

No one asked residents if putting this right next to Glenwood Elementary School in Middletown was a good idea. Or through heavily populated areas. Or right by several senior living centers. The state actually does not even have a panel that reviews siting for such projects.

No one at the state level seemed to think a risk assessment might be a good idea before giving the green light to this project. That much was made clear in the recent request from Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19 of West Whiteland, one of the most critical voices when it comes to the way the state has handled this project, for just such a state study.

Council will take another shot at signing off on the risk assessment study next week. We hope they do. It’s not Republican or Democratic.

It’s the right thing to do.

Source: http://www.delcotimes.com/article/DC/20180201/NEWS/180209957


Susan Phillips February 14, 2018 at 9:58 pm


By SUSAN PHILLIPS, Allegheny Front, February 9, 2018

Before the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued that penalty to Sunoco and lifted the order suspending construction on Mariner East 2, questions were being raised about how the controversial pipeline got approved by the PA-DEP in the first place. The questions stem from documents which surfaced as part of a lawsuit challenging the pipeline’s permits. They show text messages exchanged between a senior staffer in Governor Wolf’s office and the state’s chief environmental regulator. StateImpact Pennsylvania published the documents, and their reporter Susan Phillips looked into it.

A senior staffer for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf asked the state’s chief environmental regulator not to send letters to Sunoco detailing problems with its permit applications for a controversial pipeline project until the governor was updated, according to text messages obtained through a lawsuit.

The texts also show the official asking the PA state’s Department of Environmental Protection whether some deficiencies cited in Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 plans could “remain flexible for field adjustments.”

In February 2017, soon after the series of texts, PA-DEP approved Sunoco’s permits with conditions. Some landowners and environmentalists say that Wolf injected political pressure into a decision that should be based solely on environmental standards. They say those standards and regulations were subverted to help Sunoco make its projected timeline on the project.

And, they say, the texts bolster their claims.

“I don’t know if there’s a smoking gun here but there sure is a lot of smoke,” said Eric Friedman, a Delaware County landowner who, along with his homeowner’s association, is battling Sunoco’s eminent domain taking.

Source: https://www.alleghenyfront.org/mariner-east-2-texts-raise-questions-about-wolf-administration-role-in-permitting-process/


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