Pennsylvania DEP shuts down construction on Sunoco gas pipeline

Elias Hubbard
January 12, 2018

According to a news release from the DEP Wednesday, Sunoco must cease all construction activity on the pipeline project, except for maintenance of erosion controls and limited maintenance of horizontal directional drilling equipment.

In November, Sunoco delayed the projected completion of the line until the second quarter of 2018.

"Every stakeholder involved in this process has the same shared priority: the safe development of critical infrastructure like Mariner East 2", said Kurt Knaus, spokesman for the alliance, which supports private investments in pipeline and other energy infrastructure developments.

In October, three environmental groups - Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and the Mountain Watershed Association - filed a motion for summary judgment with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board to revoke certain permits for the pipeline on the grounds that the pipeline would violate state law by crossing "exceptional value" wetlands unnecessarily, that Sunoco violated anti-degradation law for those wetlands, and that the DEP issued permits without receiving a storm water management plan from Sunoco.

"Until Sunoco can demonstrate that the permit conditions can and will be followed, DEP has no alternative but to suspend the permits", said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

Sunoco said in a statement it plans to quickly comply with the requirements set by the state and restart construction soon.

Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields told the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper the company received the suspension order Wednesday morning and meant to comply with the conditions. The company also expressed its "dedication to preserving and protecting the environment in which we conduct our work".

DEP had previously temporarily halted drilling of the Mariner East 2 in July so that Sunoco could make corrective actions in Chester County, which was also in relation to drilling activities and adverse effects to private water supplies from 14 homeowners.

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.

Addressing all impacts to private water wells in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County. "I really believe that the governor wants to push this project through". "We have to go out there and see what they're doing and report it", she said. This photo, taken Wednesday, shows a work area off Fallbrook Lane in Glen Mills, near Philadelphia. Energy Transfer Partners' other projects, most notably the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, have drawn similar scrutiny from regulators and pipeline opponents.

Lynda Farrell, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Coalition, called the DEP's decision "stunning" and "remarkable" after many months in which Sunoco's critics accused the DEP of taking a hands-off approach to regulating Mariner East 2.

Since May, DEP has issued Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP) subsidiary Sunoco Pipeline LP more than 30 separate violation notices, most recently on December 22.

"[The] announcement is a small step in the right direction, but the responsible course of action for Gov. Wolf is to stop Mariner East construction until and unless a public safety risk assessment is available", Caroline Hughes, a representative from Goshen United for Public Safety said.

Sunoco Pipeline, which has regional headquarters in Spring Township, said the pipeline will provide four times the capacity of its existing Mariner East 1 pipeline.

Wednesday's order stipulates that construction will not be allowed to resume until Sunoco officials meet a new set of stipulations.

"This project remains critically important for our commonwealth", he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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