First Responders Ready for ME1/ME2 Emergencies, If There Are Any

Last week MDN told you about seven anti-fossil fuelers in the Philadelphia area who have filed a request with the PA Public Utility Commission requesting the PUC shut down both the Mariner East 1 pipeline, which has been flowing since 2016, and Mariner East 2 pipeline, which is about to go online any day now (see Desperation: 7 Philly Antis Ask PA PUC to Stop ME1, Block ME2). Why shut them down now? Because, the antis say, Sunoco Logistics (the builder) hasn’t done a proper job of preparing those who live near the pipelines to prepare for a rare (almost never happens) emergency. What their request, and mainstream media, doesn’t reveal is this: Sunoco formed the Mariner Emergency Responder Outreach (MERO) program years ago and has (so far) trained some 2,350 firefighters, police officers, emergency medical service providers, municipal emergency management officials, and other public safety personnel. How much more prepared can any community be? We’re delighted to bring you a guest post today responding to concerns about pipeline safety–specifically about ME1 & 2 safety.

The following is written by Kevin O’Connor, a retired Baltimore County fire fighter who also led the Governmental Affairs and Public Policy Division of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Kevin is a columnist and associate editor for Firehouse Magazine.

In the rare case of a pipeline emergency, first responders are well prepared

By Kevin O’Connor

We often hear world leaders promise to make our world more safe and prosperous. They know most people want to live in a community full of opportunity that also makes them feel safe and secure. Energy security equates to stronger homeland security. A more robust pipeline infrastructure contributes to greater energy independence and the ability to harness our domestic energy resources.

Pipelines also create thousands of high paying construction jobs, long term employment opportunities in the energy sector and are a tremendous economic engine generating tax revenues for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and local communities.

Pipelines are the safest and most technologically advanced way to transport energy in our modern world. Pipelines are a much safer option than rail and road, leading to fewer accidents, injuries, and human fatalities. Additionally, in the rare case of an incident or emergency along the pipeline, first responders are well trained to preserve safety in communities along the pipeline.

Sunoco Logistics operates several pipelines through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including the Mariner East Pipeline system. As a company, they have been transporting energy resources safely for over 75 years in the state. A Pennsylvania township commissioned a study in 2015 that found Sunoco Logistics meets or exceeds strict federal safety requirements at every level because they use the most advanced safety technology and monitoring systems, including an Integrity Management Program that employs smart inspection technology to assess every inch of pipe. Sunoco also works with local and federal agencies to comply with 100 percent of all regulations.

The Mariner East 2 Expansion project (ME2X) has gone “above and beyond” federal safety standards because Sunoco cares about building a high-quality product and paying extra attention to safety. The pipe includes a monitoring system that controls pressures, temperatures, and flows and alarms if any conditions fall outside safety parameters. The pipeline also has another monitoring system, called a Computational Pipeline Monitoring System, which analyzes deviations in the flow of liquids. This system gives the pipeline operator the ability to identify potentially dangerous operating conditions.

In the rare case of a pipeline incident, first responders are well trained to respond, just as they are for any type of emergency—such as a wildfire or hurricane. Sunoco has teamed up with local emergency responders along ME2’s route to provide information and training on emergency pipeline response. Mariner Emergency Responder Outreach (MERO) training is offered to responders in each community where their pipelines operate. Sunoco Pipeline even enlisted Greg Noll, an expert in emergency response with over 40 years experience in the fire service, to update and deliver MERO trainings across Pennsylvania. Mr. Noll has authored several books, including the textbook on pipeline emergency response, Pipeline Emergencies.

Since 2013, the MERO program “has trained approximately 2,350 firefighters, police officers, emergency medical service providers, municipal emergency management officials, and other public safety personnel.”

Sunoco Logistics also offers public awareness meetings to bring together local residents, schools, and businesses with first responders to discuss potential pipeline incident scenarios and proper response procedures. The meetings include a Coordinated Response Exercise which offers pipeline operators a chance to interact with emergency responders in order to pre-plan for pipeline emergency response. Sunoco held twenty-one of these meetings across Pennsylvania and five in West Virginia this year 2018 alone.

Sunoco Logistics is an admirable example of a pipeline company doing everything possible to promote public safety. Pennsylvanians should rest assured in the rare case of a pipeline emergency. Pipelines are the safest way to transport the energy that fuels our day-to-day activities and expanding pipeline infrastructure through projects like the Mariner East pipelines, is necessary to continue to promote safety in local communities.