Investigation Launched Over PA Pipeline Projects
Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the Delaware County district attorney’s office announced that both would be launching an investigation into a 350-mile natural gas liquids pipeline that has been blamed for causing waterway pollution and creating sinkholes. The investigation will examine pipeline construction and other related activities.
According to NBC 10 Philadelphia, Delaware County's district attorney referred the Mariner East 1, 2 and 2x pipeline projects case to Shapiro, who noted that the office “will leave no stone unturned in this case.”
Mariner Pipeline Projects
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.
Mariner East 2 is set to move ethane, propane and other petroleum products from Ohio and West Virginia east to the Philadelphia region. The DEP’s order, however, halted all construction (other than basic site maintenance activities).
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.
Attorney General Investigation
The announcement made earlier this month follows closely on the heels of a similar announcement made in December by Thomas P. Hogan, the district attorney of Chester County. Hogan recently began moving to get a grand jury to launch its own investigation into what the pipeline company was doing. (Chester County has been dealing with sinkhole problems associated with the pipelines.)
According to NBC 10 Philadelphia, the shutdown of Mariner East 1 is still in effect in light of another sinkhole opening up in Chester County. An order from the DEP stopping construction permits for Energy Transfer has also been in effect since February, due to the company allegedly failing to comply with an order issued after an explosion on the Revolution Pipeline. The explosion occurred shortly after the pipeline started moving natural gas.
The Mariner East 2 pipeline began operating in late December, and the Mariner East 2X is nearly finished.
“There is no question that the pipeline poses certain concerns and risks to our residents, and as District Attorney, I am working to do everything possible within my power to ensure the safety of residents. At this time, we are thoroughly reviewing the evidence available to us, working with the Attorney General’s Office, and seeking action within our jurisdictional boundaries. We want residents to know that we have heard their concerns, and we are willing to hear any new concerns that they may have about the pipeline by contacting my Office,” said Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland.
“Due to the fact that the pipeline spans over 17 different counties in Pennsylvania, we sought assistance from our partners in law enforcement, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. As this remains an open and active investigation, the details available for disclosure are very limited, as is the case in any of investigation.”