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More Charges Filed in Mariner East Case

Friday, December 6, 2019

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On Tuesday (Dec. 3), the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, in Pennsylvania, announced additional charges in the ongoing case surrounding the Mariner East pipeline. The new charges largely concern security personnel, a number of whom have been accused of bribery, conspiracy and other offenses.

According to Philadelphia Magazine, among the personnel charged was the security manager at Energy Transfer, the company that owns the project.

Mariner East Pipeline

In January 2018, state officials stopped construction of Sunoco Pipeline’s Mariner East 2 pipeline after a series of incidents in which drilling fluids were released into the environment over the course of seven months.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued the order suspending construction after issuing 32 notices of violation to Sunoco between May 9 and Dec. 22 of 2017. Violations largely related to “inadvertent returns” of fluids from horizontal directional drilling, considered to be industrial waste. The DEP’s order, however, halted all construction (other than basic site maintenance activities).

© iStock.com / rootstocks

On Tuesday (Dec. 3), the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, in Pennsylvania, announced additional charges in the ongoing case surrounding the Mariner East pipeline. The new charges largely concern security personnel, a number of whom have been accused of bribery, conspiracy and other offenses.

Mariner East 2 is being constructed of 350 miles of 16-inch pipe and 250 miles of 20-inch pipe, most rolled, milled and coated in the United States, according to Sunoco. The first Mariner East pipeline, 300 miles long, was completed in 2016 and conveys liquid propane and ethane from the Marcellus shale drilling region of Western Pennsylvania east to Sunoco’s Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, refinery.

Sunoco Pipeline is a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs from North Dakota to Illinois.

In May 2018, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Judge Elizabeth Barnes ordered the suspension of gas transportation through Sunoco’s Mariner East 1 pipeline, while also stopping any further construction on the Mariner East 2 pipelines, citing contaminated water wells, sinkholes and poor managerial decisions on the company’s part.

By late March, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the Delaware County district attorney’s office announced that both would be launching an investigation into Mariner East 2. In late April, the Mariner East 1 pipeline returned to service after a three-month shutdown, according to reports. The shutdown occurred after a sinkhole was found in Chester County, Pennsylvania, which exposed a section of the pipeline. In September, a new sinkhole was found along the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Delaware County, the second sinkhole in the Middletown area since April.

In mid-November, the FBI reportedly launched an investigation into how permits were issued by Pennsylvania government for the Mariner East pipeline, a project that carries natural gas across the state.

Recent Charges

DA Tom Hogan’s office also alleges that the owner of the Mariner East pipeline hired security who worked as state constables, as well as elected officials whose responsibilities included serving arrest warrants. The clincher is that the Pennsylvania Ethics Act mandates that state constables report statements of financial interest for income higher than $1,300, and also forbids those in that role from using their power for private business. The office reportedly found that a number of state constables were hired as security personnel for Mariner East. Those implicated were charged in August.

The recent charges are a follow-on from an investigation launched by Hogan last December, which was prompted by a number of sinkholes and an explosion. The investigation into what was initially seen as environmental crimes escalated into examining security because of a reported encounter a plain-clothed Chester County detective had with a private security guard at a construction site and other reports by residents.

Hogan also alleges that Energy Transfer paid constables to bear arms and badges to intimidate those living near the project.

According to a news release from DA Tom Hogan’s office, those charged include: Frank Recknagel, Security Manager for Energy Transfer; Nikolas McKinnon, Senior Security Adviser for TigerSwan LLC; Michael Boffo, Site Security Supervisor for TigerSwan LLC; James Murphy, operator of Raven Knights LLC; and Richard Lester, registered owner of Raven Knights LLC.

Energy Transfer hired contractor international security firm TigerSwan to provide protection for the company’s Dakota Access Pipeline, and more recently hired the firm to oversee Mariner East. Raven Knights is based in Pennsylvania.

“This is a pretty simple case. State Constables sold their badges and official authority. Energy Transfer bought those badges and authority, then used them as a weapon to intimidate citizens,” said Hogan in the news release.

“And the defendants attempted to conceal their activity through a maze of companies and payments. Meanwhile, new sinkholes are popping up along the Mariner East Pipeline. And still, the governor remains asleep at the wheel.”

In response to the charges, Energy Transfer said that it believes “these charges do not have any merit and find it troubling that District Attorney Tom Hogan would proceed with charges that we are confident will not stand, creating far-reaching impacts for this employee and his family.”

The company went on to note that that the constables were hired by “an independent, Pennsylvania-based security firm,” though the verbiage did not clarify if this was in reference to Raven Knights, going on to specify that “local law enforcement never expressed any objection to this security plan when it was discussed and implemented.”

   

Tagged categories: Government; Infrastructure; Oil and Gas; Pipelines; Program/Project Management; SA

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