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Mariner East Pipelines Proceed, as Challenges Continue

The Mariner East II pipeline route runs more than 300 miles across 17 Pennsylvania counties. (gokul/Pixabay)
The Mariner East II pipeline route runs more than 300 miles across 17 Pennsylvania counties. (gokul/Pixabay)
March 17, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Environmental groups are going ahead with their challenge to permits for the Mariner East II pipelines, despite the denial of their petition to halt construction. The pipelines, being built by Sunoco, will carry highly flammable, natural-gas liquids at high pressure for 300 miles across 17 Pennsylvania counties.

According to Alex Bomstein, senior litigation attorney with the Clean Air Council, the state Department of Environmental Protection permits were granted while there were still outstanding problems with the applications, including lack of a required analysis of alternative routes.

"Sunoco never fixed that analysis, and never did the proper looking into whether it could avoid protected wetlands," he said, "but DEP just went ahead and issued the permits anyway, and that's just one of many examples."

In denying the petition to halt construction, the Environmental Hearing Board said Sunoco had met minimum standards. Bomstein noted that Sunoco has the single worst safety record of all pipeline operators for incidents involving hazardous-liquid pipelines.

Beyond potential damage to wetlands and waterways, Bomstein said, there are serious safety concerns. The pipelines will be carrying liquids that are 150 times more flammable than natural gas, and a leak anywhere would pose a threat of explosion or fire.

"But if it blows up in an area such as suburban Delaware County or Chester County, or other areas along the route where there are a lot of people in close quarters," he said, "it could just be horrific."

Bomstein said Sunoco has seized private land through eminent domain, which the Clean Air Council believes is illegal. He said the company also has trespassed on private property when access hasn't been granted, and the list goes on.

"It has violated a settlement agreement with West Goshen Township, it's violating zoning laws across the state," he said. "So, almost every type of law you can imagine, it's breaking right now."

But for now, the DEP permits remain in effect as the environmental groups' appeal is being considered.

The DEP permits are online at dep.pa.gov.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA