WEST CHESTER (March 18, 2020) – State Senator Andy Dinniman today called for a halt to construction of the Mariner East pipeline project due to public health and safety concerns regarding the growing spread of COVID-19.
“We had valid concerns about this pipeline project before COVID-19. Those concerns are only heightened today,” Dinniman said. “If we are under a state of emergency with nonessential businesses and employees halting operations, how is this pipeline construction permitted to continue? Even PennDOT has halted construction on new projects, but this is allowed to go on?”
In a letter sent today to Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Chair Gladys Brown, Dinniman made a strong case for halting construction of the controversial and problem-plagued pipeline project.
“While the majority of our constituents recognize the importance of their individual efforts collectively, we are profoundly perplexed and alarmed that pipeline construction is allowed to continue. Not only will direct interaction during construction place skilled laborers at unnecessary risk of infection, but also the movement of these individuals throughout our communities only furthers the risk to all, including our essential workforce of medical professionals and first responders,” he wrote.
Dinniman also sent a copy of the letter to Governor Wolf and state lawmakers and county officials in neighboring Berks, Montgomery and Delaware Counties, which are impacted directly, or indirectly by the ongoing Mariner East construction. He urged them to write similar letters to the PUC calling for an immediate shutdown of Mariner East due to the current COVID-19 health emergency.
Dinniman also pointed out that:
- The construction of a new pipeline that will ship hazardous natural gas liquids to Europe for plastics manufacturing is hardly “an essential service.” It certainly is not more essential than construction of new transportation infrastructure, like road and highway improvements (which has been halted).
- Governor Wolf’s order that thousands of nonessential state employees work from home means that direct oversight of the Mariner East pipeline project in the field by the PUC, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and other state agencies can be compromised.
- Currently, many more individuals living near pipeline construction, including children home from school and those working from home, are in the blast zone 24/7, increasing the danger in case of a pipeline rupture or emergency.
- Given Mariner East’s long record of problems combined with the fact that many residents are sheltering at home, we do not need to risk spills, inadvertent returns, damage to vital aquifers, contamination to private walls, geologic issues like sinkholes, or interruptions to water or utility service during this public health emergency.
- Remember, only a few short weeks ago, pipeline construction activity in West Whiteland Township damaged a PECO natural gas distribution line directly adjacent to multiple homes and the Chester County Library. If a pipeline emergency were to occur, our emergency first responders would only be further burdened at a time when these essential services must be focused on the crisis at hand – COVID-19. In fact, there are concerns about coronavirus among emergency first responders, further driving home the point that we must focus on the health crisis at hand, rather than raising the potential for emerging emergencies.
- Finally, with so many residents working from and staying at home in close quarters and under stressful conditions, the quality of life impacts from pipeline construction, including excessive noise, dust and potential air contaminates are only further amplified. It’s time for the PUC to put citizens first.
“If we are serious about containing the spread of this virus, then we all need to follow the guidelines in place regarding social distancing, halting nonessential services, and avoiding unnecessary risks that could burden emergency services and exacerbate an already challenging public health emergency,” Dinniman said. “We have all drastically modified our everyday lives in the face of COVID-19, the Mariner East pipeline shouldn’t be given a free pass while continuing to potentially place our communities at a heightened risk.”
“A state of emergency affirms and fortifies the authority the PUC already has to shut down the pipeline in terms of real or potential threats to the health safety and welfare of the citizens of the commonwealth. I am requesting immediate action from the PUC,” he added.