Work on the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline can resume, according to a decision by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Our action to suspend the permits associated with this project, and the collection of this penalty, are indicative of the strict oversight that DEP has consistently exercised over this project.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester County), an outspoken critic of the pipeline, rejected the DEP's assurances, saying the fine won't undo the environmental damage done by the pipeline construction so far, and accusing DEP of ignoring community calls for an assessment of safety risks that may be posed by the pipeline.
"If DEP had issued the permits properly in the first place, if DEP had done enforcement and monitoring all along, we would not have had the disaster that is the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline", says Minott.
The construction permits were suspended in early January for what the DEP labeled "willful and egregious" violations.
DEP and Sunoco entered into a Consent Order and Agreement (COA) memorializing the penalty.
Before the suspension could be lifted, Sunoco officials and employees were required to meet 21 stipulations handed down by DEP leaders via an administrative order.
Completion was initially expected in the third quarter of 2017, but the DEP ordered the company to stop some work on the project in July following fluid spills from horizontal directional drilling activities.
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Sunoco Pipeline in a statement Thursday said it was "committed to fully complying with the DEP order".
Those conversations continued in the wake of Thursday's agreement.
Mariner East 2 is just one of ETP's projects, which include the Dakota Access crude line from North Dakota to IL and the Rover natural gas pipe from Pennsylvania to MI, that has come under intense regulatory scrutiny for environmental and other reasons over the past year.
Pipeline opponents, including Sam Rubin of the Food & Water Watch, were critical of DEP's agreement. "Governor Wolf's message to the thousands of schoolchildren living within the blast zone of the Mariner East 2 is simple: Your safety is less important than Sunoco's profits".
But Rich Raiders, an attorney who has represented landowners in eminent domain fights with Sunoco, said the DEP's action does nothing to ensure that Sunoco's long series of environmental violations won't be repeated.
The statement said that "all permit conditions will be followed at all times moving forward, as well as additional measures and controls that Sunoco will implement to minimize inadvertent returns and water supply incidents".