PA DEP Fines Sunoco $95K for Mud Spills During Pipeline Drilling

Although there’s been no publicly published notice, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) has fined Sunoco Logistics for spilling non-toxic drilling mud (bentonite) at several locations when they were drilling for the Mariner East I pipeline. One of those instances was last September when Precision Pipeline, hired by Sunoco, was drilling under the Little Mingo Creek (see Mariner East Pipeline Drilling Spills Mud in Local Creek). Bentonite is non-toxic and used in products from shampoo to deodorant and toothpaste. It’s also used to lubricate the drill bit and carry drill cuttings out of the ground. While non-toxic, a whole lot of bentonite in the water can, of course, suffocate fish and cause problems for wildlife that happen to drink it. In March of this year, we noted that the DEP was telegraphing that they were about to assess a “significant” fine for the mud spills at Mingo Creek and a few other locations (see PA DEP: Sunoco Facing “Significant” Fine for Non-Toxic Mud Spills). The fine has been levied. The “significant” fine ended up being $95,000. Clipping Sunoco $95K, compared to the $8.9 million fine the DEP recently slapped on Range Resources for methane leaks, seems somewhat trivial and rather insignificant. Which is perhaps why the DEP hasn’t published, as they usually do, an official notice on their website about the fine…

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