WEST CHESTER (March 7, 2018) – State Senator Andy Dinniman urged the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to grant an emergency order suspending both operations of Sunoco’s Mariner East I pipeline and drilling of the Mariner East II pipeline in the Lisa Drive area of West Whiteland Township.
Earlier today, the PUC’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement filed a petition seeking an emergency action to do just that in light of recent and growing safety concerns involving the development of multiple sinkholes in the area of Lisa Drive.
The petition called for the following:
- A suspension of operations of Mariner East I and purge of natural gas liquid product from that pipeline in the Lisa Drive area until repairs are completed to the bureau’s satisfaction. Mariner East I operates in a west to east direction and is permitted to carry liquid propane, butane, and ethane.
- A suspension of Mariner East II drilling in the Lisa Drive area until extensive geophysical and seismic tests, analysis, and reevaluations are completed related to horizontal direct drilling activities at that site.
Dinniman, who has been a vocal critic of the project’s environmental and public safety concerns from the beginning, said PUC Commissioners now face a decision on whether to approve, approve in part, or deny the petition
“We can’t afford to wait on this. The number of sinkholes appears to be growing and the heavy snowfall only seems to be exacerbating the problem,” Dinniman, who serves on the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said. “I strongly encourage the PUC to take urgent action in support of this. And frankly, given the strong and rather bluntly worded petition, I don’t see how or why the PUC wouldn’t follow the recommendation of its own bureau – a recommendation that cites the very safety of our citizens.”
According to the PUC’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement’s petition, “By failing to immediately suspend operations on ME1 (Mariner East I) pending review of the integrity steps conducted by Sunoco, the safety of the public would be jeopardized. The pipeline in question transmits hazardous liquids in densely populated areas defined by PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) as High Consequence Areas. Needless to say, any compromise or failure of the pipeline would have dire results, and the injuries resulted therefrom would most certainly be irreparable.”
The petition also notes that Sunoco did not provide any notification to the PUC or PHMSA of the sinkholes. In fact, the PUC was only notified of the formation of new sinkholes near Amtrak’s Keystone line via a March 3 e-mail from a local resident. According to the petition, Sunoco’s own compliance was also unaware of the sinkholes until then.
Dinniman said a number of factors, including a lack of internal coordination, public communication, and emergency action from state agencies, have substantially worsened the already problematic Mariner East II project.
“While our frustration with the litany of failures on this project is immense, the petition affirms what we have been saying for more than two years regarding pipeline construction in a geologically questionable and high-density area that includes homes, schools, senior living facilities, parks, and a library,” he said. “Finally, we appear to be getting some action, but again, we can’t afford to wait. We need it today. We need the PUC to act to stop operations and stop drilling to protect our homes, our land, and potentially, our lives.”