ME2 Work in Lebanon, PA Halted for Spilling a Single Cup of Mud

A single cup of drilling mud, bentonite, is nothing. It is beyond nothing. Bentonite is the clay-based compound used to make toothpaste, lipstick and kitty litter. It is completely non-toxic–it goes on and in the human body! And yet when underground drilling work restarted at Snitz Creek in Lebanon County, PA for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project, a single cup of drilling mud (bentonite) came out where it wasn’t supposed to (in the creek), so once again the whole shebang was shut down. Which we find crazy. What’s next–shutting down drilling when a tablespoon of drilling mud comes out? A teaspoon? Look, we get it. There have been other spills at Snitz Creek (see ME2 Construction in Lebanon County Stopped for 50 Gal Mud Spill). If a cup comes out, maybe it will be followed by a gallon coming out. And if a gallon comes out, maybe 10 gallons or even 50 gallons will follow. Immediately halting all underground horizontal directional drilling used to install the pipeline under Snitz Creek is an “abundance of caution” thing. But come on! So what if 10 or even 50 gallons comes out? It’s bentonite and its non-toxic! Spilling 50 gallons of the stuff in the creek is like spilling 10 bags of kitty litter in the creek. A few fish and salamanders might die. So what? That’s the price of progress. Here’s the crazy news that a single cup of drilling mud has once again stopped ME2 work in Lebanon County at Snitz Creek…
Continue reading

Lebanon County Judge Rules ME1 is Public Utility, Pump Stn OK

This story stretches back four years. In November 2014, MDN told you about anti-drillers in Lebanon County, PA who had succumbed to shiny object syndrome and transferred their irrational hatred of fossil fuels from the Williams Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project to the already-in-the-ground but getting repurposed Sunoco Logistics Mariner East 1 pipeline (see New Target for Lebanon, PA Antis: Mariner East Pipeline). As part of converting ME1 from an oil pipeline to flow natural gas liquids, including propane and ethane, from western PA to the Philadelphia area, some 31 pump and valve stations needed to be built–one of them in West Cornwall in Lebanon County. Three local residents and an anti-drilling group called Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County filed an appeal with the zoning board to force the town to rescind permits they granted to allow the pump station. In May 2015, the West Cornwall Township Zoning Hearing Board declared the appeal “moot”–meaning denied (see Antis’ Zoning Appeal re Mariner East Pump Stn in Lebanon “Moot”). The antis decided to throw good money after bad and appealed the matter to Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas (i.e. county court). Finally, after years, the judge in the case backed ME1 over the antis, delivering his decision earlier this week. The judge ruled that ME1 is exempt from certain local zoning restrictions because it is (yes), a “public utility.” Which should not surprise anyone. Just last week the U.S. Supreme Court said the same thing when it refused to hear an eminent domain case for ME2, a different but closely related pipeline (see U.S. Supreme Court Lets Stand Eminent Domain for ME2 Pipeline). Like ME2, ME1 is a public utility. So say all the courts…
Continue reading

U.S. Supreme Court Lets Stand Eminent Domain for ME2 Pipeline

It’s been a long, tough fight to get the Mariner East 2 Pipeline (ME2) project built. In fact, it’s still not 100% built (it is about 98% done). Construction on a tiny section near Philadelphia is currently being stopped by a liberal judge (see Antis Get Lib Judge to Shut Down All Mariner East Pipes, Dems Rejoice). We expect that to be resolved soon. However, the project has been sued multiple times in different courts. One of the favored legal arguments was/is to say the project does not have the right to use the power of eminent domain to force recalcitrant landowners from accepting it. One such case, brought by a Lebanon County, PA landowner, was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday the Supremes declined to review the case, a challenge to ME2’s ability to use eminent domain, thereby cementing a ruling by the PA Commonwealth Court that ME2 can indeed use eminent domain. Period. End of sentence. The Supreme Court ruling is just the latest in a string of rulings favoring the ME2 project. Last summer, a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel ruled in favor of ME2, upholding its status as a public utility because it will provide increased public access to energy resources like propane. Huntingdon County Common Pleas Court Judge George Zanic ruled against efforts to delay construction of ME2 after Commonwealth Court validated the utility status by dismissing an appeal. None of this is new. The court have repeatedly ruled against challenges to the state Public Utility Commission’s designation of ME2 as a public utility with  public benefits. And now, the Supremes have rendered the final word: ME2 is a public utility
Continue reading

Two More $1M NatGas Pipeline Grants Coming Courtesy PA Taxpayers

PA Gov. Tom Wolf

It’s Christmas in Pennsylvania. Last week PA Gov. Tom Wolf and his Dept. of Community and Economic Development (DCED) announced the award of nine grants “to promote energy efficiency and spur economic development.” Among those nine grants are two grants for new natural gas pipelines. Two $1 million grants were awarded from the PA Pipeline Investment Program (PIPE), one to flow gas to a wax manufacturer in McKean County that wants to switch from using coal to natgas, and the other to serve over 500 new residential and business gas customers in Wayne County. Other grants in the list of nine include $965,000 for a 2000 kW CHP (combined heat and power) system for the Villanova University campus, and $1.2 million for a 2,000 kW CHP system for the Bayer Healthcare facility in Myerstown. In general we’re not in favor of corporate welfare, which is what this is (let’s just be honest). However, this is a pretty mild case of it. We can think of worse ways to blow taxpayer’s money. Essentially these relatively small investments keep more PA gas in PA by running pipelines to residents and businesses that will use it, and by helping fund power plants that will use it. Think of the grants as seed money to encourage more PA gas staying in PA, generating jobs at the same time…
Continue reading

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?…
Continue reading

PA DEP Keeps Up Pressure on Mariner East 2 Pipe in Lebanon County

The Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) continues its quest to put Mariner East 2 (ME2) Pipeline construction under a microscope. Two days ago MDN told you that the DEP had issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) for ME2 work in Lebanon County, PA, for spilling LESS THAN 1 gallon of non-toxic drilling mud (see PA DEP Shuts Down ME2 Drilling in Lebanon, PA for 1 Gal Mud Spill). Because it was the second spill at that location (the first being ~50 gallons), DEP shut down horizontal directional drilling at the Snitz Creek site. The DEP is back, riding ME2 for all they’re worth, with another NOV in Lebanon County. This one is because the DEP “observed sediment flowing into an unnamed tributary of Killinger Creek in South Londonderry Township.” If a body of water is large enough to be called a creek (something that runs year-round), it gets named. If a body of water isn’t even that big, it’s called an unnamed tributary–a body of water that may or may not flow year-round. We call it a drainage ditch. At any rate, DEP says Sunoco Logistics and their contractor building the pipeline in that area woulda/shoulda/coulda stopped a little dirt from washing down that drainage ditch if they had only used “best practices for controlling erosion.” Here’s the latest view under the microscope…
Continue reading

PA DEP Shuts Down ME2 Drilling in Lebanon, PA for 1 Gal Mud Spill

We chalk this one up as outrageous. 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 “less than one gallon” spill of non-toxic drilling mud. Drilling mud is composed of bentonite–the same clay compound used in kitty litter, toothpaste and cosmetics. A spill of less than a gallon is NOTHING. It’s not even worth reporting. Yet Sunoco Logistics, the company drilling, was honest and reported the “inadvertent return” as it is called. And because Sunoco previously had another small spill at the same location, the DEP, bowing to pressure from radical environmental groups, has halted any further horizontal directional drilling (HDD) work at the Snitz Creek location. This is bizarre, but perhaps not unexpected. It all stems to a deal Sunoco made with the devil…
Continue reading

ME2 Pipe Blasting in Lebanon County Uncovers Old Pollution

Blasting and drilling work in Lebanon County, PA related to building the Mariner East 2 Pipeline may have caused old deposits of MTBE (a gasoline additive) that had been stored at an old Sunoco facility to dislodge and migrate–into a nearby farmer’s water well. A subcontractor doing blasting work on Sept. 11 experienced “complications” during a detonation. Pieces of rock and debris hit a nearby house and swimming pool. Not a good thing. That blasting may also have led to the migration of MTBE to a nearby farm where MTBE had not previously been detected. Also not a good thing. Sunoco used to operate the Quentin terminal from 1940 to 1993 that served as a petroleum storage facility for the original Mariner East Pipeline–that flowed petroleum. That pipeline has since been repurposed and now flows natural gas liquids. Leaks from the old storage facility were known to have contaminated the ground in the area. It appears the blasting may have disturbed some of the pollution sitting under ground…
Continue reading

Atlantic Sunrise Gets Ready to Cross 5 Towns in Lebanon County, PA

As MDN reported yesterday, construction work on two compressor stations part of the Williams $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project began last Friday, the same day the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave the project permission to begin construction (see Williams Breaks Ground on Atlantic Sunrise Pipe, Ahead of Schedule). Next up will be digging to lay the pipeline itself. The Lebanon Daily News reports residents in Lebanon County can count on seeing activity there “any day now.” The article names the five townships where the pipeline will cross, and says first up will be staging of equipment, then tree clearing, and finally (perhaps in mid-to-late October) the pipeline itself will get laid in the ground. A few antis in Lebanon have been quite vocal against the project over the past couple of years (see Lebanon County Antis Want Public (Spectacle) Mtg or No Mtg at All). Interestingly, over the past year or so Lebanon antis have been mum. Will we see any nutjobs chain themselves to bulldozers in Lebanon County? We doubt it, but you never know. Depends on whether or not out-of-town Big Green groups send troublemakers into the area. Here’s the list of five towns fortunate enough to see the Atlantic Sunrise, along with the list of four contractors hired to build the pipeline…
Continue reading

ME2 Pipe Workers Make Positive Impression in Lebanon County, PA

Here’s not something you read every day, especially in Lebanon County, PA where local media seems only too interested in covering negative stories about pipelines: “What I have heard has all been positive – that the workers were willing to go beyond anything that might be expected of them and do little special things for the landowners.” That statement is from a town official in Lebanon County, talking about Mariner East 2 pipeline construction workers who are busy in the Lebanon County installing the first of two ME2 pipelines. Of course, not everyone is happy. But then, not everyone is always happy with anything–even a sunshiny day! Here’s what’s happening in Lebanon County with ME2…
Continue reading

Williams Responds to Tired Old Claim Atlantic Sunrise Exports Gas

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline map – click for larger version

One of the arguments anti-pipeline advocates are attempting to use to slow down the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project in Pennsylvania is to argue there aren’t enough Federal Energy Regulatory (FERC) Commissioners to listen to them complain. When FERC Chairman Norman “cry baby” Bay left in a huff on Feb. 3, FERC was left with just two (out of five) active Commissoners (see FERC Commissioner Norm Bay Targets M-U on Way Out the Door). On Bay’s last day on the job, he and the other two active Commissioners voted to approve the Atlantic Sunrise project (see Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Gets Final Approval by FERC). When a project is authorized, the very first tactic in the anti playbook is to challenge it. But unfortunately (for the antis), nobody’s home to hear them. That is, there aren’t enough Commissioners to hear their protest and make a decision to reverse their previous decision. Thing is, if they did hear the complaining of antis and decided their original decision was just fine, the antis then move on to filing an appeal in court. But antis can’t “pass go and collect $200” (i.e. go to court) until/unless FERC first refuses to “re-hear” their decision. Antis in Lebanon County have filed with FERC, hoping there will soon be a quorum to consider their complaint against Williams and Atlantic Sunrise. One of their main arguments is a very old argument–that most of the gas that will head south will be exported. Williams took time to swat that one away, once again…
Continue reading

Atlantic Sunrise Files 13 Eminent Domain Cases in 4 Counties

There’s always a few holdouts, no matter how hard you try to be reasonable. We’re talking about landowners who refuse to negotiate in good faith with pipeline companies. Earlier this month amidst a flurry of activity, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) handed Williams a final final final approval for its Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project–a $3 billion, 198-mile pipeline running through 10 Pennsylvania counties to connect Marcellus Shale natural gas from PA with the Williams’ Transco pipeline in southern Lancaster County (see Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Gets Final Approval by FERC). There have been a committed small number of protesters against the project (what’s new?), including some of the landowners along the pipeline route. Although Williams has been attempting to negotiate with them for the past two years, some (very few) landowners have refused. So now Williams, via its Transco subsidiary, has sued 13 landowners in Columbia, Lebanon, Northumberland and Schuylkill counties using eminent domain. Meanwhile, the only thread antis are left hanging by is a lawsuit against a single landowner who they say illegally signed with Williams…
Continue reading

Eminent Domain Begins for Landowners in Path of Atlantic Sunrise

You beg and plead and beg and plead. You come with your hat in your hand. You try to explain that no, the pipeline isn’t going to avoid your property, Mr. or Ms. Landowner. But some landowners refuse to negotiate. So the last resort option must be exercised. That’s the situation with Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline in several counties in Pennsylvania–including Lancaster, Lebanon, Columbia, Northumberland and Schuylkill. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a final certificate for Atlantic Sunrise, allowing construction to begin, just two weeks ago today (see Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Gets Final Approval by FERC). Although the project is still waiting on an approvals from the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State Historic Preservation Office, Williams expects to begin construction soon. Very soon. Landowners who either oppose the pipeline because they hate fossil fuels, or because they thought they might get a higher offer, or because they thought they could just make it go away by singing, “La la la la, I don’t hear you!”–are now out of time. Atlantic Sunrise is taking recalcitrant landowners to court and will soon have a court order allowing them to proceed with construction…
Continue reading

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Gets Final Approval by FERC

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline map – click for larger version

Friday saw a flurry of activity at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)–the federal agency in charge of evaluating and authorizing interstate pipeline projects. Today is FERC-day on MDN, because there was so much news from Friday! Perhaps the most important news coming out of a list of approvals was FERC’s final blessing on Williams’ $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project–a 198-mile pipeline project running through 10 Pennsylvania counties to connect Marcellus Shale natural gas from PA with the Williams’ Transco pipeline in southern Lancaster County. In addition to the pipeline, two new compressor stations will get built, and when the whole thing is done, an extra 1.7 billion cubic feet per day of northeast PA Marcellus Shale gas (from Cabot Oil & Gas and Seneca Resources) will flow south. On Friday, FERC issued a final certificate for the project, allowing Williams to build it. We can’t wait until Williams goes through and knocks down the magic tree house built by environmental wackos in an attempt to stop the project (see PA Antis Build 2nd Magic Tree House to Stop Atlantic Sunrise Pipe). That’ll make for some great headlines when it happens. However, Williams isn’t starting up the bulldozers just yet. Before they can begin, Williams still needs permits from the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, permits from PA & the Army Corps is perfunctory. It’s now over. The antis have lost and the good guys have finally scored a victory! Construction will begin on the main portion of the pipeline in mid-2017…
Continue reading

FERC Approves Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline! Cabot Grabs More Capacity

1/4/17 Update: Williams finally issued its own press release about this, which we’ve included below.

On the last business day of 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a favorable final environmental impact statement (EIS) for one of the major pipeline projects in the Marcellus/Utica: the $3 billion Williams Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project. The FERC EIS for Atlantic Sunrise (full copy embedded below) said that although there may be some adverse environmental effects from the project, those effects can be “reduced to less-than-significant levels” by Williams via the plans submitted. FERC considered five alternative routes and chose to stick with the preferred route proposed by Williams. However, FERC did ask Williams two make minor tweaks to four locations along the route of the pipeline. Cabot Oil & Gas, the main customer for the 1.7 billion cubic feet of capacity, was positively giddy with the announcement. Cabot released their own press release to say that although they previously gobbled up 850 million cubic feet (MMcf) of capacity along the new pipeline, they are adding another 150 MMcf to that number, giving the company a grand total of 1 billion cubic feet (out of 1.7 Bcf) of capacity along the pipe when it’s built. Holy moly! That will be 1 Bcf per day of Cabot’s gas going from Susquehanna County, PA to other states, outside the region. VERY smart move by Cabot. Below we have the news and feedback/analysis about the announcement…
Continue reading

PA County Judge Attacks Mariner East 2 Status as Public Utility

court-gavel.jpgSunoco Logistics Partners, the builder of the Mariner pipeline projects, has fought a long and hard legal battle to be recognized as a public utility in Pennsylvania–especially with regard to the next big project in the lineup, the Mariner East 2 pipeline. ME2, as it’s called, is a $2.5 billion, 350-mile natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline that will run from eastern Ohio through the state of Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. From the beginning anti-pipeline fanatics have tried to derail the project by claiming it is not a public utility (with the right of eminent domain) as defined by PA’s statutes. In July 2014 two administrative law judges working for the PA Public Utility Commission (PUC) said ME2 is not a public utility (see Setback for Mariner East NGL Pipe – Judges Say Not Public Utility). But a few months later, the Commissioners of the PUC overruled them and said yes, it is a public utility–always has been, always will be (see Major Milestone: PA PUC Rules Mariner East IS a Public Utility). However, the antis continued to challenge it in court. Finally, in July 2016, PA’s Commonwealth Court in hearing an appealed case ruled in favor of Sunoco, saying that ME2 is regulated by both the PUC and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and it therefore has the right to use eminent domain (see Sunoco LP Wins Major Court Decision for Mariner East 2 Pipeline). However, a county judge in Lebanon, PA has just rendered a decision that once again attempts to question ME2’s classification as a public utility. The decision, and how it impacts ME2, is complicated…
Continue reading