Pennsylvania’s Department of Environment Protection has suspended all construction on the Mariner East 2 pipeline.
When announcing the decision this week, the department stated that Sunoco, the parent company behind the pipeline has violated the conditions of two kinds of permits:
“Sunoco must cease all construction activity on the pipeline project, except for maintenance of erosion controls and limited maintenance of horizontal directional drilling equipment.
“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. “We are living up to our promise to hold this project accountable to the strong protections in the permits.”
The order specifically states, “Suspension of the permits described is necessary to correct the egregious and willful violations described herein.”
In addition, the order from the DEP required the company to provide a report that “fully explains the failures that led to the violations,” to create a plan to prevent recurrences, and to address the private water contamination and how to prevent it “to the satisfaction of the private well owners.” The company must also abandon all illegal drilled pilot holes within ten days.
Construction on the project has not gone smoothly. In addition to numerous spills, resulting in contaminated drinking water for homes in nearby Silver Lake Township, there have also been numerous mud spills.
State regulators discovered that Sunoco was drilling under streams without permits after a spill contaminated a high-quality creek in Berks County. When investigation further, regulators found non permitted construction at over a half-dozen other locations along the pipeline’s route.
Sunoco has 30 days to submit more information to DEP for them to conduct a review on whether or not construction can proceed.
Environmentalists believe that the suspension has not gone far enough.
Now we see exactly what happens when you don’t give strict permits as required by the law, and have the resources to monitor it,” says Joe Minott, executive directory of the Clean Air Council. Minott says that Sunoco is not a trustworthy company: “Hopefully, DEP will really pause and take the time to look at how egregious the behavior of Sunoco has been throughout this process, and re-do the permits and make sure it’s being done properly.”
“What we really need is a full and permanent halt to construction and a full, transparent, and public assessment of the risks associated with the Mariner East 2,” Food & Water Watch organizer Sam Rubin said in a statement.
Sunoco, subsidiary of Dakota Access Pipeline builder Energy Transfer Partners, has a bad reputation across the US, with numerous hazardous materials pipeline spills. Over the past decade, Sunoco has spilled hazardous materials 296 times, more than any other operator.
This is not the first time that Mariner East 2 pipeline construction has been halted. Last summer, a Pennsylvania court temporary halted construction until Sunoco agreed to stronger project oversight from the state.
The pipeline, which is estimated to cost $2.5 billion and will be 350 miles long at completion, will carry natural gas liquids from the Marcellus Shale in Western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio to an export terminal near Philadelphia. The majority of it will then be sent to a plastics manufacturer in Scotland, further merging two planet-killing industries.