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By sandbagger2
Sunoco proposes construction change for Mariner East 2, but meets fresh resistance
NOVEMBER 28, 2017 | 1:17 PM

An aerial view of Sunoco Pipeline's Mariner East 2 construction in rural Pennsylvania. Plans for a new construction technique in some locations have prompted a new round of community resistance.
Sunoco’s plan to change the construction of its Mariner East 2 pipeline in Chester County’s West Whiteland Township is stirring opposition from residents and local lawmakers only four months after a botched drilling operation there spilled fluid, punctured an aquifer and turned drinking water cloudy in some private wells.

The company wants to abandon its controversial method of horizontal directional drilling (HDD) at two West Whiteland sites where a court temporarily halted the practice last summer as part of a statewide action in response to dozens of spills along the 350-mile route.

The Environmental Hearing Board ordered Sunoco to conduct a “re-evaluation” of 63 sites where fluid was spilled, in an effort to determine whether local geology was suitable to the drilling technique even though state permits were issued and construction was underway.

At the points where the pipeline route crosses North Pottstown Pike and Swedesford Road, an independent geologist hired by Sunoco concluded, horizontal drilling should either be sharply curtailed or scrapped altogether, because continuing the work would likely result in more spills.

At the Pottstown Pike site, the consultant said, the drilling would likely have the same result because of a “fractured” geological formation some 70 feet below the surface.

“Based on the further analysis of the underlying geology and hydrogeological factors such as fractured geology, cobble and voids, the original design was determined to pose a moderate to high risk of subsurface and/or surface loss of drilling fluid,” the report by Groundwater & Environmental Services said.

At the Swedesford Road site, the drilling technique is unsuited to the limestone geology, and a method should be used that won’t spill drilling fluids, the report said.

Sunoco has accepted the geologist’s reports, and is now proposing to build the pipeline in an open trench and through a conventional bore at the West Whiteland sites, according to two “re-evaluation” documents on the Department of Environmental Protection’s web site.

But the new plan has already sparked protests by West Whiteland residents and some of their elected representatives even before DEP decides whether to approve it.

“While Sunoco has gone through the motions of re-evaluation, it is clear that the information provided is insufficient,” said State Senator Andy Dinniman, a Democrat whose Chester County district includes West Whiteland.

In a Nov. 22 letter to DEP, Dinniman said Sunoco’s plan for the Pottstown Pike site does not examine the environmental impact of open-trench and conventional bore construction, fails to discuss the possibility of sinkholes – one of which recently opened up on private property in the township – and urged officials to take stronger measures to ensure that pipeline construction does not affect private water wells.

He called on DEP to reject the report as incomplete, to require Sunoco to do a “complete” impact evaluation, and to hold public hearings. DEP did not respond to a request for comment.

Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said the company has decided that open-trench construction will “best protect the area’s water resources” at the sites. He said the company awaits approval from DEP, and does not expect the changes to affect the pipeline’s overall construction schedule, which is due to end sometime in the second quarter of 2018. He declined to respond to Dinniman’s criticism.

When complete, the $2.5 billion pipeline will carry ethane, butane and propane from the Marcellus Shale of southwestern Pennsylvania to a terminal at Marcus Hook near Philadelphia, where most of it will be exported. It has been under construction since February.

David Mano, a West Whiteland resident whose well water turned cloudy after drilling went wrong in the summer, said there’s now a “major uproar” in the community over Sunoco’s plans. Open-trench construction means the company would dig a trench, lay the pipeline in the trench and cover it. The pipeline would be closer to the surface than if the company used horizontal drilling.

If the new plan is approved, the trench will run next to suburban housing lots, under a little league baseball field, near a seniors’ assisted-living center, and through a wetland next to the local library, he said. Residents who signed easements allowing the pipeline to be built beneath their land would have a trench they did not expect.

Mano’s neighbor Ginny Kerslake, who lives a few yards from a drilling site on Shoen Road, said burying the pipeline in a shallow trench rather than 60 or 70 feet underground would increase residents’ exposure to any possible explosion of the highly pressurized natural gas liquids that will be carried by the pipeline through the densely populated suburban area.

“The danger of it being just a few feet underground is that it puts it at risk of being hit by somebody who doesn’t know the pipeline is there. It could be a catastrophe. It could kill thousands of people,” she said.

The West Whiteland locations are among only three of the 63 re-evaluation sites where Sunoco proposes to stop HDD altogether and substitute other means of pipeline construction, according to Alex Bomstein, an attorney for the environmental group Clean Air Council, which led the challenge to Sunoco before the Environmental Hearing Board.

By Monday, only 12 of the sites were recorded as being in the re-evaluation process, according to a spreadsheet on the DEP’s website, suggesting that Sunoco has its work cut out to re-evaluate the remaining 51 drilling sites, and obtain DEP approval for its plans by the middle of next year.

Asked if Sunoco is still working on plans for the remaining sites, Shields said he would defer to DEP on that question.

It’s not clear whether the re-evaluation process will cause yet another delay in the pipeline schedule, which is now some 18 months behind its original target for completion, but progress looks slow so far, Bomstein said.

“I’m surprised that it has gone as slowly as it has, but I don’t know what it’s like internally on their end,” he said.

State Rep. Carolyn Comitta, a Chester County Democrat, said she wasn’t familiar with the details of the re-evaluation plan but said regulators should take whatever time they need to ensure the safety of the pipeline project.

The new plan should be “thoroughly and completely vetted” by environmental engineers who can determine its safety, and help to overcome continuing public concerns, Comitta said.

The changes and their resulting delays might have been avoided if Sunoco had done its due diligence more thoroughly in the first place, argued James Schmid of Schmid & Co., a consulting ecologist who has worked for Clean Air Council and other environmental clients.

“They are supposed to have done their geological borings, and documented their reasons for using or not using horizontal directional drilling, and all that was supposed to be done before they put this stuff into the DEP for approval,” Schmid said.

A more thorough examination would have allowed the company to know that they would have the problems that led to the re-evaluation, he said. “I would think that the rocks haven’t changed in the last three years. What Sunoco has learned may have changed dramatically.”
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By sandbagger2
Meehan calls for pipeline risk assessment study
By Alex Rose, Delaware County Daily Times

U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7, of Chadds Ford, is asking Gov. Tom Wolf to conduct and publicize a risk assessment of the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline currently under construction in parts of the county.

“Constructed safely, pipelines have the potential to generate good-paying jobs and benefit the energy economy in Pennsylvania,” said Meehan in a Dec. 12 letter to the governor. “However, over the past several months I have taken numerous meetings with constituents alarmed about the potential safety implications of the construction and operation of the ME2 pipeline.”

The Mariner East 2 would bring natural gas liquids including propane, ethane and butane from Marcellus shale areas in Pennsylvania and neighboring states to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex for refining and sale. About 11.4 miles of pipeline is being routed through private and public property in Thornbury, Edgmont, Middletown, Aston and Upper Chichester.

Residents in those municipalities have decried the route of the pipeline, however, which in some cases skirts school properties and divides residential areas. One group who has adopted the moniker “The Middletown Six” has taken a complaint to enforce zoning regulations before the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which heard arguments in October.

The Andover development homeowners’ association in Thornbury also filed a motion in Commonwealth Court in September seeking a preliminary injunction to halt work on the project until mitigation efforts have been put in place, and the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety has called for a moratorium on construction and for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to revoke Sunoco’s permits.

The state Environmental Hearing Board approved a settlement between Sunoco Pipeline LP and environmental groups in August regarding horizontal drilling concerns fueled by two non-toxic lubricant leaks in May and July.

Under that agreement, Sunoco was to re-evaluate 47 drilling sites where “inadvertent return” has occurred or will occur and get approval from DEP before resuming drilling operations.

DEP Press Secretary Neil Shader said following an Aug. 17 spill in Dauphin County that Sunoco failed to adhere to the agreement in that case, but Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said the company was in compliance.

Shields could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Meehan said it was those “reports of undisclosed leaks of drilling fluid and unauthorized methods of drilling” that prompted fears from his constituents and motivated his letter to the governor.

Meehan spokesman John Elizandro said the residents expressed concerns that ranged into the potential for catastrophic disaster. While pipelines can be an important part of the state’s energy economy, said Elizandro, public safety must be the top priority in any such project.

“Residents have repeatedly requested that the state conduct and publicize a risk assessment that takes into consideration the safety hazards of a pipeline leak and the probability of such a leak occurring,” said Meehan. “A risk assessment would be a welcome and responsible step in providing residents with the information they need to better understand the construction and operation of this pipeline and any potential effects it may have on a densely populated community.”

Meehan said the nature of the pipeline and its route is such that primary regulatory responsibility rests with the commonwealth and the Wolf administration.

“Congressman Meehan is right to stand up for his constituents,” said Alex Bomstein, an attorney for the Clean Air Council. “Gov. Wolf must act to protect all residents of the commonwealth.”

“Gov. Wolf understands local concerns and has worked to address them,” said spokesman J.J. Abbott Tuesday. “DEP has held Sunoco accountable to permits and laws under their jurisdiction. However, DEP’s role is focused on environmental protections like erosion and sediment control, storm water management from earth-moving activities, and obstructions and encroachments to waterways and wetlands.”

Abbott said safety issues related to public utilities fall under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which would have purview over any safety assessment. He added that the governor would support such an assessment being conducted.

Representatives for the PUC could not be reached late Tuesday.
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By sandbagger2
East Goshen pushes for pipeline changes
By Bill Rettew,

EAST GOSHEN >> Township supervisors recently adopted a pair of resolutions requesting that representatives elected state-wide take bipartisan action to better regulate pipelines.

Letters were also sent to Gov. Tom Wolf and other representatives seeking “bipartisan action to advance, approve, and enact pending legislation for the regulation of interstate and intrastate pipeline transmission infrastructure in the interests of health, safety and welfare of all the citizens in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” reads a Dec. 7 letter sent to Wolf.

Supervisor Marty Shane wonders if municipal ordinances should trump state and national regulations.

“You can’t sit and take it like a boxer where you get beat up,” Shane said. “Legislators need to deal with this from our perspective. What needs to be done at the Harrisburg level? What should supervisors control and not control?”

The non-binding Oct. 3 resolution calls for a siting policy to determine where pipelines go for the “common good” of all Pennsylvania residents.

It also suggests re-evaluation of the legal framework to allow municipalities to directly participate in siting.

Easement saturation standards would be examined, with possible limitation of the number, size and character of products carried in a given easement. When the Mariner project is completed, 11 pipelines will crisscross the township.

Supervisors also want to see that impacted local residents and municipalities are properly reimbursed through fees and taxes.

Township noise violation charges against Sunoco Pipeline, which is building the Mariner East 2 Pipeline, are scheduled to be heard Jan. 10 in district court.

Shane said that the court will be asked to determine what level of noise is “lawful and reasonable” as part of a test case and what could become a landmark decision for the entire state.

Sunoco spokesman Scott Shields declined to comment on the township’s plans.

Plans call for the now-under-construction Mariner East 2 pipeline to snake 350 miles from Marcellus Shale deposits in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania to the former Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.

Shane supports statewide ordinances that would establish the same standards everywhere.

Whether it’s collecting a fee from pipeline owners or municipalities deciding where pipelines can go, Shane said that any decisions need to be acceptable to the majority of the counties in the state.

Shane said that many see Marcellus Shale production and pipelines as a windfall.

“They can’t understand why we in Chester County are opposed to this,” he said.

The most recent resolution was adopted Nov. 21.

This resolution supports investment by legislators, commencing with committee work, to effectively and in a timely fashion review any proposed pipeline bills.

The supers also encouraged the Senate and House to fully discuss, debate and approve new laws, and in due course, Gov. Wolf should sign legislation regulating the “public health, safety and welfare to the benefit of all the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

In other related news, the township was recently notified that Sunoco will be pulling pipe after dark near the Bow Tree Subdivision as late as 10 p.m. starting Dec. 13.

Also, as reported on the township website: “It has been brought to our attention that Adelphia Gateway LLC plans to convert the Interstate Energy Pipeline, which currently runs through East Goshen Township, to carry shale gas.

“The Interstate Energy Company Pipeline runs through the township’s open space in the Wentworth development, which is located by the CVS Drugstore. At their meeting on Dec. 5 the board of supervisors acknowledged receipt of a letter from Adelphia Gateway regarding possible changes to their right-of-way. The township also has been advised recently that other property owners have received similar letters.

“What does all of this mean? Based on what we know, Interstate Energy is a Public Utility that has a tariff from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to transport natural gas and oil in the eastern part of the state.”
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