Sunoco Says ME1 Ready to Restart, but PUC is Dragging its Feet

Ethane and propane had been flowing through the converted Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline safely for more than year, hauling the two natural gas liquids (NGLs) from southwest PA all the way to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. However, ME1 was suddenly switched off on March 3 by order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) after a sinkhole opened up under the pipeline in Chester County, exposing some of the bare steel to the open air (see PA PUC Shuts Down Mariner 1 Pipeline Due to Mariner 2 Sinkhole). Sunoco Logistics Partners, the owner of ME1, is building a new set of pipelines called Mariner East 2 (ME2) close to the existing ME1. Construction work in the area on ME2 led to the sinkhole that exposed ME1. The PUC shut down ME1 until further notice, requiring Sunoco to conduct a study of the area and provide the PUC with evidence to reassure them that ME1 is OK and will not leak or explode. Sunoco conducted the study, provided its results, and has told the PUC it’s time to restart ME1. But the PUC is dragging its feet, taking its time to review Sunoco’s work, and in no particular hurry to restart ME1–even though the outage is impacting the drilling program at companies like Range Resources…
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PA DEP Hunger Games Competition to Distribute $12.6M in ME2 Money

In February Sunoco Logistics Partners agreed 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). Sunoco’s ME2 construction activities caused a few erosion issues here and some drilling mud leaks there–so-called “harms” to the environment. Surely some of the massive, historically high $12.6 million fine Sunoco is paying will be used to “fix” those problems, right? Wrong. Sunoco has to pay twice–pay to clean up the problems AND pay the fine. The fine was essentially a shakedown–Sunoco had to pay it or they would not be allowed to resume construction work on ME2. Yesterday the DEP announced a new program to distribute the $12.6 million of fine money. In Hunger Games tradition, the DEP is launching a lottery for the 85 municipalities along ME2’s path, allowing those “districts” to submit begging proposals to request some of the money for programs in their district. What kind of programs? “[P]rojects that reduce or minimize pollution and protect clean water.” In other words, just about anything contestants can dream up. They have 45 days, from May 7 to June 21, to make a grab for the cash (i.e. submit a grant application)…
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Sunoco Requests Change of Drilling Methods for ME2 Near Sinkholes

Underground horizontal directional drilling (HDD) work done by Sunoco Logisitics Partners in Chester County to install the twin Mariner East 2 (ME2) pipelines has led to the development of three large sinkholes (see 3rd Sinkhole Appears Near ME2 Construction in Chester County, PA). The third sinkhole that developed exposed a portion of the existing Mariner East 1 pipeline, causing ME1 to be closed until further notice (see PA PUC Shuts Down Mariner 1 Pipeline Due to Mariner 2 Sinkhole). In order for ME1 to reopen, the state Public Utility Commission has to be assured further drilling for ME2 won’t further disturb ME1. The problem is that the underground geology in that area of Chester County is known as a karst–analogous to Swiss cheese rock layers underground. Not conducive to HDD work. So Sunoco is changing gears. The company has filed a request with the Dept. of Environmental Protection (which oversees the regulation of the project) to change from using HDD to instead using a couple of alternative methods to get the pipe in the ground–including trenching. Before the DEP gives its OK, they will first hold a public hearing on April 30th in West Chester…
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ME2 Pipeline Cuts Down PA Trees Vacated by Protesters

Bet you didn’t know that if a pipeline company waits until antis leave the treetops where they’ve been perched because of concerns about high winds, and then the pipeline company nips in early in the morning and cuts down those vacated trees (legally), it’s considered a “predawn timbering raid.” That’s the hilarious headline given to yet another anti-pipeline, anti-drilling article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, covering news about cutting down three trees on a property in Huntingdon County, PA. For the past two years the Gerharts have used illegal protest tactics to stall tree cutting on their property. Out-of-state Big Green radicals, along with the Gearharts’ own daughter, have lived on-and-off in the tops of three white pine trees, building magic tree houses so they can lay around and do whatever. The tree occupation has prevented Sunoco Logistics Partners from cutting the trees, which are in the path of the Mariner East 2 pipeline project. At daybreak on Sunday, April 8th, after observing the greenie weenies had left the night before scared of impending high winds, Sunoco snuck in and cut down the trees, much to the consternation of the Gerharts who called it a “underhanded and cowardly attack.” We call it funny! And smart. So much for the dedication of antis. They scamper down trees when it gets a tad windy up there–something to keep in mind…
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Antis: Sunoco Damaged Own Equipment to “Change Conversation” re ME2

Last week MDN reported that two pieces of heavy equipment being used by Sunoco Logistics Partners to build the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Chester County, PA had been severely, intentionally damaged (see Criminal Antis Vandalize Sunoco ME2 Pipe Construction Equipment). As Sunoco pointed out, there is no doubt who perpetrated the crime: Someone(s) who oppose the ME2 project. Antis who tipped over into engaging in a criminal act in their misguided, twisted attempt to save Mother Earth from the evils of fossil fuels. Sunoco is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Antis know darned well it was one of their own who did the crime–either a local or (more likely) someone from out-of-state, an imported radical who couldn’t help himself. Wackos. Antis are now trying to focus attention away from their own criminal element by having the gall to allege Sunoco may have damaged their own equipment as a way of “changing the conversation.” Antis are offering their own $10,000 reward in order to shift the focus away from themselves. This is really sick stuff…
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Criminal Antis Vandalize Sunoco ME2 Pipe Construction Equipment

It’s OK to be a blithering idiot and oppose important pipeline infrastructure projects like the Mariner East 2 Pipeline because you believe in the fairy tale of man-made global warming. It’s OK to march and protest and write and name-call, and yes, it’s even OK to launch frivolous lawsuit after frivolous lawsuit. Knock yourselves out. It’s your right as a citizen in the greatest country on Mom Earth, a country we call America. What is NOT OK is to vandalize construction equipment used to build the pipeline, causing thousands of dollars in damage, simply because you’re demented and delude yourself that you are somehow saving “the environment” with your criminal action. That is precisely what Sunoco is alleging after someone(s) damaged the engines, fuel systems and hydraulic lines of two pieces of heavy equipment on April 2 & 3 in Chester County, PA (near Philadelphia). Sunoco is offering $10,000 for information leading to an arrest. We certainly hope that happens…
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ME1 Pipeline Shutdown in M-U Causing Propane Prices in TX to Drop

Propane is one of the NGLs (natural gas liquids) that come out of the ground along with natural gas and oil–especially in “wet gas” areas like southwestern PA, eastern OH, and the northern panhandle area of WV. Ethane and propane have been flowing through the converted Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline for more than year–hauling propane (and ethane) from southwest PA all the way to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. At Marcus Hook, the propane is loaded onto ships and sent around the world. The world is an important market for our propane. However, ME1 was suddenly switched off on March 3 by order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) after a sinkhole opened up under the pipeline, exposing some of the bare steel to the open air (see PA PUC Shuts Down Mariner 1 Pipeline Due to Mariner 2 Sinkhole). Sunoco Logistics Partners, the owner of ME1, is building a new set of pipelines called Mariner East 2 (ME2) close to the existing ME1. ME2 will also haul ethane and propane to Marcus Hook, greatly expanding capacity. As part of their construction work in Chester County, several sinkholes developed leading to the shutdown of ME1. You might think if the supply of propane suddenly stops, prices would go up. But that’s not what happened. Because the propane ME1 was hauling to Marcus Hook was exported, that supply is now staying here at home. The effect has been to drive DOWN the cost of propane–in Texas!…
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Offer to Relocate Families Near ME2 Sinkholes; ME1 Down Until May?

Sinkhole in Chester County, PA

Sunoco Logistics Partners (aka Energy Transfer Parnters) has had its challenges in constructing the twin Mariner East 2 (ME2) pipelines across Pennsylvania. In March, MDN told you that underground horizontal directional drilling (HDD) work in Chester County had led to a third sinkhole developing in that area (see 3rd Sinkhole Appears Near ME2 Construction in Chester County, PA). For most of its length, ME2 is being built next to the existing ME1 (Mariner East 1), a liquids pipeline originally built in 1931. The third sinkhole in Chester County exposed a portion of ME1, leading to the state Public Utility Commission “temporarily” shutting down ME1 on March 7 (see PA PUC Shuts Down Mariner 1 Pipeline Due to Mariner 2 Sinkhole). ME1 would be, according to Sunoco, out of commission for “10 to 14 days.” Nearly a month later it’s still not running and until the state Dept. of Environmental Protection gets solid answers about the sinkholes, it won’t restart. It now looks like ME1 won’t be operational again until May. ME1’s closure has put several shippers, primarily Range Resources, in a bind (see Range, CNX Look for Alternatives to ME1 Pipe Following Shutdown). Sunoco needs to conduct geotechnical studies near the sinkholes to get answers that will allow it to resume work. So, Sunoco has offered to temporarily relocate five families living near the three sinkholes–for up to six weeks–while it conducts tests of the area…
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PA DEP Stops ME2 Drilling in Huntingdon County for < 1 Gal. Spill

Sunoco Logistics Partners has had its share of problems in building the Mariner East 2 (ME2) twin NGL pipelines that run from eastern Ohio all the way to Marcus Hook, near Philadelphia. The main issue with construction of the pipeline has been underground horizontal directional drilling (HDD)–drilling under things like roads and bridges and streams and rivers–places where you can’t just dig a trench to lay pipeline. Some early problems with HDD caused the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) to shut down all ME2 HDD work (indeed all work period) for an extended period in January (see PA DEP Caves to Big Green Pressure, Stops All Work on ME2 Pipeline). After Sunoco agreed to pay the DEP a whopping $12.6 million “fine” (i.e. shakedown money), the DEP allowed work to resume in February (see Sunoco LP Pays PA DEP $12.6M to Resume ME2 Pipeline Construction). While doing ME2 HDD work in Huntingdon County last week, Sunoco contractors reported less than one gallon of non-toxic drilling mud (bentonite) went missing–it came back out of a hole it didn’t go down. And because of that, the DEP has shut down all work at the site…
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PA Appeals Court Rules ME2 Pipe NOT Under Local Zoning

The entire panel of judges sitting on Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court, an appeals court in PA, ruled yesterday that zoning regulations in a local municipality–in this case Middletown (Delaware County)–do NOT supersede the state Public Utility Commission when it comes to regulating Sunoco Logistics Partners Mariner East 2 (ME2) NGL pipeline. In May 2017, six anti-pipeline residents living near where the ME2 pipeline will pass asked the Middletown town council to reject the path of the pipeline near their property because it would, supposedly, pass closer than town code allows. The town council told the residents they’re out of luck–the town will not pursue any action to block Mariner East 2. Period. The residents, amped-up, agitated and funded by Big Green groups filed a lawsuit against ME2, to force it to conform with Middletown’s ordinance (see 6 Middletown Antis Sue Sunoco LP to Stop Mariner East 2 Pipe). The lawsuit was filed in the the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. The judge dismissed the case in June, so the antis, again funded by Big Green groups, appealed the case to the next higher court, Commonwealth Court. An “en banc” panel (meaning all of the judges) heard the case, indicating its high importance. The en banc panel ruled yesterday, against the Middletown residents…
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PA Senate Pipeline Hearing Turns into Bash ME2 Pipe; Antis Act Up

Two Pennsylvania Senate committees–the Environmental Resources and Energy and the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure committees–held a joint hearing on Tuesday supposedly on the topic of “pipeline safety”–but instead the hearing turned into a bash Sunoco Logisitcs and the Mariner East 2 (ME2) Pipeline hearing. A variety of witnesses testified. Unfortunately, State Sen. Gene Yaw (RINO from Lycoming County), chairman of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, didn’t invite Sunoco to testify, so it was a one-way bash fest. Sunoco was not allowed to respond. Thanks Gene. It wasn’t a court hearing, so we can’t call it a kangaroo court. Perhaps we can call it a kangaroo Senate hearing? While the discourse in the hearing was mostly civil (although it was nonstop bashing of Sunoco), a group of rabble rousers nearby was not. A group of 10-15 (depending on the news source) marched on Gov. Tom Wolf’s office. They were there to serve Wolf with a mock “Notice of Probable Violation and Summons,” which the malcontents say requires Wolf to appear in Chester County before families impacted by construction of ME2. The small mob was met with locked doors and Capitol Police who turned them away…
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Philly Suburbanites Launch Class Action Lawsuit Against ME2 Pipe

Sunoco Logistics Partners (aka Energy Transfer Parnters) has had its challenges in constructing the twin Mariner East 2 (ME2) pipelines across Pennsylvania. Earlier this month MDN told you that underground horizontal directional drilling (HDD) work in Chester County had led to a third sinkhole developing in that area (see 3rd Sinkhole Appears Near ME2 Construction in Chester County, PA). For most of its length, ME2 is being built right next to ME1 (Mariner East 1), a liquids pipeline originally built in 1931. The third sinkhole in Chester County exposed a portion of ME1, leading to the state Public Utility Commission temporarily shutting down ME1 (see PA PUC Shuts Down Mariner 1 Pipeline Due to Mariner 2 Sinkhole). Now added to Sunoco’s complications, two residents living near the sinkholes in Chester County have filed a class action lawsuit against Sunoco, saying the company was negligent for using a drilling technique (HDD) not suitable for the geology in the area…
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ME2 Drilling at 2 Locations Near Altoona Shut Down for Leaks

In early March MDN reported that Sunoco Logistics’ underground horizontal drilling (HDD) work on its massive Mariner East 2 NGL pipeline near Philadelphia had resulted in several sinkholes developing (see 3rd Sinkhole Appears Near ME2 Construction in Chester County, PA). Yesterday we reported the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) had stopped ME2 HDD work in Lebanon County following a 50 gallon drilling mud leak (see ME2 Construction in Lebanon County Stopped for 50 Gal Mud Spill). And now, more trouble for ME2 HDD work. This time Sunoco’s work at two different locations in Blair County (Altoona area) has resulted in the DEP shutting down further HDD work at both sites. In one case, around 200 gallons of drilling mud leaked out where it wasn’t supposed to (called an “inadvertent return”)–into a wetland. In the other case, a drill pit overflowed and leaked diluted drilling fluid into the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River. Here’s the latest in Sunoco’s series of unfortunate events…
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ME2 Construction in Lebanon County Stopped for 50 Gal Mud Spill

The Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) has just shut down further drilling for the Mariner East 2 Pipeline project at Snitz Creek in Lebanon County, PA because of a 50 gallon spill of non-toxic drilling mud. This isn’t the first time the DEP has stopped underground horizontal directional drilling (HDD) work at Snitz Creek. Last November they did the same thing for a piddly 1 gallon spill (see PA DEP Shuts Down ME2 Drilling in Lebanon, PA for 1 Gal Mud Spill). In the parlance of today, leaking 50 gallons of drilling mud into Snitz Creek is a nothing-burger. Biased reporters like those at PBS StateImpact Pennsylvania make it out to be the environmental crime of the century. There’s more environmental damage from overfilling a gas tank at the local Sheetz that spills two gallons of gasoline onto the pavement than there is from spilling 50 gallons of non-toxic kitty litter (or toothpaste, or lipstick) into Snitz Creek. But there you go. Sunoco voluntarily reported the incident, and was promptly shut down at that site until further notice. Meanwhile, a few weeks ago a farmer in nearby Lancaster County spilled 100,000 gallons of manure into two creeks–with zero consequences. Why didn’t the DEP shut down the farm?…
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PA PUC Votes Thursday to “Ratify” Shutdown of ME1 Following Sinkholes

Last week MDN reported that due to underground horizontal direction drilling (HDD) in Chester County, PA for the Mariner East 2 (ME2) Pipeline project, a third sinkhole had developed. ME2 is being built close to the existing Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline. The sinkhole exposed a portion of the ME1 pipeline to the open air, which is why the head of the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) temporarily shut down the propane and ethane flowing through ME1 (see PA PUC Shuts Down Mariner 1 Pipeline Due to Mariner 2 Sinkhole). The shutdown is for 10-14 days, which sent ME1 customers Range Resources an CNX Resources scrambling to find alternate ways to ship their ethane and propane (see Range, CNX Look for Alternatives to ME1 Pipe Following Shutdown). Tomorrow the PUC will meet and as part of that meeting, they will vote to ratify the action of PUC Chairwoman Gladys Brown in issuing last week’s emergency shutdown order…
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Grumpy Antis Protest at ME2 Sinkhole Site – Jeer Sunoco Workers

A third sinkhole related to Mariner East 2 pipeline work and the uncovering (and subsequent shutdown) of the Mariner East 1 pipeline has some folks in Chester County, PA stirred up and rather grumpy (see PA PUC Shuts Down Mariner 1 Pipeline Due to Mariner 2 Sinkhole). A group of some 150 anti-pipeline protesters (perhaps a better word is “mob”) gathered Saturday in Chester County near the sinkhole sites, carry signs and chanting. Did they demand that the DEP and Gov. Wolf force Sunoco Logistics Partners, the builder of ME2, to find a different route around a geography known for sinkholes for decades? Or force Sunoco to slow down in an attempt to prevent any more sinkholes? Or demand Sunoco come to the table to talk about how they will prevent any more issues in the area–and compensate properties near the sinkhole? No. Their demand of Wolf: Shut it down, now. And keep it shut down. Cancel the entire multi-billion dollar ME2 project that is 93% complete. In other words, their demand is unreasonable, not realistic, not the way adults behave when they have disagreements and concerns…
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