On Monday, February 13, 2017, environmental advocacy groups Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and Mountain Watershed Association immediately appealed the issuance of twenty permits necessary for Sunoco Pipeline L.P. to begin construction of its proposed Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipelines. Earlier that evening, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued the erosion and sedimentation control and water obstruction and encroachment permits, designed to ensure watershed protection. Environmental advocacy groups Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and Mountain Watershed Association appealed the issuance of the permits claiming that DEP had failed to address the negative impacts of the project.
The Mariner East 2 pipelines would span over 300 miles across 17 counties in Pennsylvania carrying natural gas liquids, including propane, butane, and ethane, which are 150 times more flammable than natural gas. The pipeline will cross many streams, wetlands, and waterways, severely impacting Pennsylvania’s watersheds.
DEP previously issued a multitude of deficiency letters to Sunoco Logistics in September 2016 in response to the earlier versions of the company’s permit applications, outlining hundreds of areas in need of improvement.
Clean Air Council has worked with landowners along the pipeline route for years to advocate for the rights of local residents to participate in the decisions that impact their health, welfare and quality of life and to ensure the protection of local ecosystems. The group believes that the issued permits should be overturned and work on the pipeline should be halted until a decision is made about the legality of the permits. “Sunoco’s permit applications were woefully incomplete, inaccurate, and contradictory, and DEP’s review and approval was utterly inadequate,” said Joseph O. Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. DEP’s decision was made too hastily and will allow Sunoco Logistics to violate the law. “What DEP has authorized with these permits is the destruction of Pennsylvania streams and wetlands, the endangerment of the public, and great damage to both public and private property.”
“It is DEP’s job and the Governor’s job to protect our natural resources and the public. Instead, they are once again betraying this obligation and the public trust in favor of aiding the fracked gas and fossil fuel industries in achieving their corporate goals. Environmental groups now have to step in and do the government’s job for them,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
Since 2002, Sunoco has received 262 incident reports and 32 enforcement actions from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), as well as 17 Notice of Probable Violation orders resulting in over $2.3 million in proposed and enforced fines.
Concerned citizens along the proposed route have found and submitted to DEP additional discrepancies in Sunoco’s updated application despite no official public comment period following Sunoco’s application resubmission. According to a comment submitted to DEP in December 2016 by the Pipeline Safety Coalition, Executive Director, Lynda Farrell wrote, “A cursory review indicates that the December 5, 2016 submitted applications by Sunoco to the Department remain both incomplete and full of critical errors, including in areas which PADEP has addressed with the applicant.” Pipelines Safety Coalition called for a public comment period and an immediate rejection of Sunoco’s current application.
“The Mariner East 2 proposal, along with the rapid expansion of other forms of natural gas infrastructure, is a serious threat to the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians,” said Jordan Hoover, Community Organizer at Mountain Watershed Association.
Ellen Gerhart is a landowner whose property has been targeted for the Mariner East 2 pipelines by Sunoco for years now. “I am a recently retired public school teacher who looked forward to living quietly in my home in rural Huntingdon County,” said Gerhart. “It is unfortunate when the agencies who are entrusted with protecting the environment and the residents of Pennsylvania fail to do so. Sunoco has yet to submit a permit application that isn’t seriously flawed, yet DEP has seen fit to issue permits anyway. Our well, and our neighbor’s well, are not shown in Sunoco’s application, even though the aquifers we depend on will be impacted.”
About the Clean Air Council
Clean Air Council is a member-supported, non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone’s right to breathe clean air. The Council has over 8,000 members and works in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey on public education, community advocacy, and legal oversight and enforcement of environmental laws.
About the Delaware Riverkeeper Network
Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) is a nonprofit membership organization working throughout the entire Delaware River Watershed including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York. DRN provides effective environmental advocacy, volunteer monitoring programs, stream restoration projects, public education, and legal enforcement of environmental safety laws.
About the Mountain Watershed Association
Mountain Watershed Association is dedicated to protecting, preserving and restoring the Indian Creek and greater Youghiogheny River watersheds. MWA pursues on-the-ground restoration of past damage while also advocating on local issues as well as regional and national issues that have a local impact.