Big Green Says ME2 Pipe Violating Settlement; DEP Turns Up Heat

Sunoco Logistics Partners continues to feel the heat over their construction of the Mariner East 2 (ME2) natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline project. Most of the heat comes from underground horizontal directional drilling (HDD)–drilling holes to install pipelines under structures like roads and streams, in places where you can’t just dig a trench. The problem is that sometimes the mud used to cool the drill bit for HDD work “leaks” or disappears into cracks and crevices, and sometimes the drilling mud ends up coming back to the surface. It’s called an “inadvertent return.” Bear in mind that drilling mud is otherwise known as bentonite–a nontoxic clay mixture. Bentonite is the same chemical compound used to make kitty litter, toothpaste and all sorts of cosmetics. It’s totally safe for the environment–unless you spill a lot of it and smother little critters like salamanders and fishies. Several Big Green groups sued to stop ME2’s HDD work last year. In August, Sunoco “settled” that lawsuit. The terms of the “settlement” called for Sunoco to reevaluate and resubmit plans for HDD drilling at 47 locations for review by the Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP). Since that time more spills have occurred, and keep occurring (see Sunoco Continues to Rack Up ME2 Drilling Mud Spill Violations). Sometimes a spill is a few gallons–literally a nothing, but it must be reported anyway. Sometimes a few hundred gallons gets spilled–again, not a threat to the environment. But sometimes the spills are in the thousands of gallons–and that does begin to be a problem. Because of the ongoing spills, a Big Green group (part of the original lawsuit) is now demanding the PA DEP shut down all further HDD work. They admit their aim is to “shut down the entire project”–not just HDD drilling. While the DEP isn’t ready for such a drastic measure, the DEP is turning up the heat on Sunoco. Here’s an update…

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