Results of a new report from Reuters show that Energy Transfer and its Sunoco pipeline subsidiary have amassed more than 800 state and federal permit violations.
Energy Transfer, a Texas-based energy company which owns tens of thousands of miles of pipelines across the United States, has become well known in the last few years for owning the Dakota Access Pipeline.
These 800 plus federal and state permit violations, which have resulted in approximately $15 million in fines, are from the company and its subsidiary building their two newest natural gas pipelines, the Energy Transfer Rover and Sunoco Mariner East 2. These pipelines will carry natural gas and gas liquids from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
Reuters analyzed government data and regulatory records in order to get the results. The report also compares similar pipeline projects and found that they only averaged 19 violations during construction.
Violations on the two pipelines included spills of drilling fluid, a clay-and-water mixture that lubricates equipment for drilling under rivers and highways; sinkholes in backyards; and improper disposal of hazardous waste and other trash. Additionally Energy Transfer tore down a historic house on the Rover pipeline’s route.
The outrageous amount of violations have led local governments to draft new legislation on permits and construction regulations for oil pipeline projects. In Pennsylvania, the Mariner pipeline pushed legislators to create bills tightening construction regulations. “Any pipeline going through this area is going to face resistance which it would not have faced before,” said Pennsylvania State Senator Andy Dinniman.
And “Ohio’s negative experience with Rover has fundamentally changed how we will permit pipeline projects,” said James Lee, a spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Both regulators and industry experts say that the pace for both pipeline projects far exceeded industry norms. Yet Energy Transfer maintains that safe construction and operation have been maintained and at times went “above and beyond” regulations.
Construction for Rover started in March 2017 and was planned at a pace of 89 miles a month. Mariner East 2 started in February 2017 and was planned at 50 miles a month. The other projects examined by Reuters that resulted in lower violations were planned at 17 miles per month.
Both pipelines’ construction has been slowed by the slew of violations. Problems in Pennsylvania on East Mariner 2 have resulted in fines of $12.6 million for environmental damage, resulting in a state judge ordered work halted in May of this year.
According to Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth 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.”
Reuters also analyzed the company’s history of hazardous liquid spills and other problems and found that Sunoco ranked third worst amount pipeline companies in average annual incidents between 2010 and 2017.