PA DEP Allows ME2 Underground Drilling to Resume in Chester County

In what can only be considered a government shakedown, Sunoco Logistics Partners agreed last week to pay a massive (historically high) $12.6 million fine to the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) for “permit violations related to the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline project” (see Sunoco LP Pays PA DEP $12.6M to Resume ME2 Pipeline Construction). So we’re not surprised to learn that a few days later the DEP has magnanimously allowed Sunoco Logistics Partners to resume drilling work in Chester County for ME2–work that had been on hold since last summer (see ME2 Pipe Work in Chester County Creates Water Well Issue for Some). As we reported last year, the water wells for a dozen households in Chester County became cloudy–or lost pressure–after underground horizontal directional drilling (HDD) by Sunoco attempting to install pipes underground in places where digging trenches will not work. Sunoco paid for five families to temporarily stay in local hotels for several nights. Sunoco also provided bottled water for all of the affected families. The working theory is that bentonite clay (i.e. drilling mud) is the source of the cloudiness. Fortunately, bentonite is non-toxic and used to manufacture many products, including toothpaste and kitty litter. Because of the episode in Chester and several locations, the DEP stopped HDD work for the project. Sunoco later cut a deal to continue the work (see Sunoco Strikes Deal with Devil, “Settles” with Anti Groups re ME2). Then, all work everywhere for the ME2 project was stopped by the DEP in early January. That is, it was stopped until Sunoco paid the DEP $12.6 million for permission to restart construction. So yes, $12.6 million ought to buy the right to restart HDD drilling in Chester County, as it just has, although the DEP is still holding the threat of “further penalties” over Sunoco’s head as a way of encouraging them to avoid any further drilling mud spills…

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