West Chester >> State Sen. Andy Dinniman said he would fight Sunoco’s attempts to appeal a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission judge’s order to halt operation of the Mariner East 1 pipeline and prohibit construction of the Mariner East 2 and Mariner East 2X pipelines in West Whiteland Township.
“This fight is far from over,” said Dinniman, D-19. “And Sunoco’s response is a further indication of just how out of touch they still are. The judge’s decision and its potentially wide-reaching impacts on the pipeline regulatory environment in Pennsylvania is the result of Sunoco’s own stubborn refusal to do its due diligence in respecting homeowners, public safety and our local property and environmental rights.
“Sunoco and its parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, have been their own worst enemy. And they only have themselves to blame for making the Mariner East Pipeline a case study of how and where not to install a hazardous material pipeline,” he added.
The judge’s lengthy decision, which was released Thursday, has been called “scathing” by journalists while energy industry officials were quick to recognize its potentially vast and transformative implications for future liquid natural gas pipelines in the commonwealth.
In response, Sunoco representatives have indicated that they would file an appeal, according to news reports.
Among the findings in the order filed by PUC Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth H. Barnes:
“Sunoco has made deliberate managerial decisions to proceed in what appears to be a rushed manner in an apparent prioritization of profit over the best engineering practices available in our time that might best ensure public safety.”
Within the past year, ME1 has experienced three leaks, all in high-consequence areas. Although, there was no ignition, Sunoco failed to identify leaks on its pipeline and failed to report the leak or spill to proper authorities when they occurred. This appears to be on the surface a failure to follow proper protocol and safety procedure designed to protect the public.”
“One leak occurred in Morgantown, Berks County, Pa., on April 1, 2017, and was discovered and reported by a landowner. From the time the landowner informed the operator of a probable leak, it took approximately 90 minutes to shut the pipeline down. In that time nearly 1,000 liquid gallons of a natural gas liquids mixture was released. This is a dangerous quantity of hazardous gas.”
“Since May 9, 2017, DEP has issued Sunoco over 50 Notices of Violation for IRs and other violations, including those occurring in West Whiteland Twp.”
“Sunoco is putting West Whiteland Township’s water supplies at risk by failing to adequately identify, document and avoid drilling through well or aquifer locations underground. In the 350-mile pipeline route, Sunoco only identified 22 private wells in its water permit applications. At least 14 wells have been adversely affected in West Whiteland Township.”
“Sunoco should have used modern electrical resistivity, gravity and seismic methods and should have had a geophysical baseline test results prior to HDD drilling in West Whiteland Township. Proper testing could have uncovered the underlying geology along the route and could have potentially avoided damaging private wells and creating subsidence or ‘sink holes’ in West Whiteland Township.”
Additionally, there is a substantial issue regarding whether Sunoco has adequately created and trained its personnel and first responders of townships along its route regarding proper emergency response and evacuation procedures ... Two large school districts have asked Governor Wolf what to do in an emergency. Residents request specific instructions, but only receive boilerplate general information. Chester County Emergency Services requested an emergency management plan and this request has not been fulfilled.”
“Sunoco’s Pipeline Safety expert did not know how people unable to run away from a vapor cloud should respond to such an incident. Sunoco may have given safety pamphlets to 66,000 people along the 350-mile route, and to schools within .5 miles of the pipe. However, given that vapor clouds can move depending on weather conditions and people are mobile within their communities, this is insufficient. More public outreach should be done than the meetings already held ... All of these facts support a finding that Sunoco has failed to take reasonable efforts to warn and protect the public from danger.”
Dinniman said he and his attorney, Mark Freed of Curtin and Heefner LLP, would fight to uphold every part of Judge Barnes’ 24-count order.
The order will now go before the full five-member PUC.
Sunoco has one week to file an appeal. Its attorneys have already requested to increase the length of legal briefs from 15 to 40 pages. The PUC permitted a 25-page filing.
The next PUC meeting is set for Thursday, June 14.