Mariner East Pipeline Penalties Now Reach $13 Million

by Duane Nichols on August 31, 2019

Mariner East pipeline involves dangerous conditions over 300 miles

PA-DEP fines Sunoco/Energy Transfer $313K for Mariner East construction violations

From Susan Phillips, StateImpact Penna., August 29, 2019

Energy Transfer/Sunoco Logistics will pay a combined $313,000 for two penalties related to Mariner East 2 construction violations in 2017 and 2018. This latest assessment brings the total financial penalties assessed to the company for Mariner East construction to more than $13 million.

One penalty stems from the pipeline company’s horizontal directional drilling activities, which caused drilling mud spills in 16 streams and wetlands in 10 counties in 2018. Drilling mud consists of bentonite clay, which is not toxic but can damage aquatic life. The company’s actions violated the Clean Streams Law and the Dam Safety and Encroachment Act. The penalty assessed for that violation is $240,840.

“PA-DEP is committed to ensuring that Sunoco and other companies are held to the highest standard possible. These actions, which resulted in violations of permits and laws that are meant to protect our waterways, are unacceptable,” PA-DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement. “PA-DEP will maintain the stringent oversight that we have consistently exercised by monitoring Sunoco and taking all steps necessary to ensure that the company complies with its permits and the law.”

The company also violated the Clean Streams Law during 2017 pipeline construction, which led to erosion and sedimentation at a number of waterways in Cumberland County. The company will pay $78,621 to the state and the Cumberland County Conservation District.

Construction on the $2.5 billion Mariner East project began in February 2017, after the Department of Environmental Protection identified hundreds of deficiencies in its water-crossing and earth-moving permits. Since then, the PA-DEP has issued more than 80 violations to the company for polluting wetlands, waterways, and destroying about a dozen private water wells.

“We are happy to have resolved this issue with the PA-DEP as we remain focused on safely completing construction of this important pipeline,” Energy Transfer spokesperson Lisa Coleman said.

The pipeline brings natural gas liquids from eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania to an export terminal near Philadelphia. The majority of the product shipped through the pipelines will go to Scotland to make plastics. Completion of the third and final pipeline in the project, the Mariner East 2x, is expected by the end of this year.

In the summer of 2017, PA-DEP, along with several environmental groups, agreed to a consent decree with Sunoco after dozens of drilling mud spills led to the pollution of high value wetlands and trout streams, and the loss of drinking water for residents of a Chester County community.

As part of the consent decree, the agency is developing new permit conditions and policy guidelines for future pipeline projects.

>>> About StateImpact Pennsylvania — StateImpact Pennsylvania is a collaboration among WITF, WHYY, WESA, and The Allegheny Front.


See also:
Criminal Defense Counsel Represents PA-DEP in Mariner East Probe, Susan Phillips, StateImpact Penna., August 30, 2019

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has engaged a criminal defense attorney to represent at least one employee with regard to a criminal investigation of the Mariner East pipeline project — a move several environmental attorneys said is unusual and possibly unprecedented for the regulatory agency. Agency says it’s routine to have outside counsel, but several environmental lawyers say they haven’t seen it before.

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