Pipeline developer charged in connection with contamination


By Michael Rubinkam


The Pennsylvania attorney general on Tuesday filed criminal charges against the developer of a troubled pipeline that transports natural gas liquids from the Marcellus Shale gas field to an export terminal near Philadelphia.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the case at a press conference at Marsh Creek State Park in Downingtown, where Sunoco Pipeline LP released thousands of gallons of drilling fluid last year. The spill, during construction of the struggling Mariner East 2 pipeline, left wetlands, a creek and part of a 535-acre lake.

Energy Transfer, the owner of Sunoco, faces 48 criminal charges, most for dumping industrial waste at 22 sites in 11 counties across the state. Shapiro said Energy Transfer contaminated the drinking water of at least 150 families statewide.

The charges relate to “illegal behavior related to the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline that has polluted our lakes, rivers and water wells and endangered the safety of Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said, speaking with Marsh Creek Lake behind him.

Messages have been sent to Energy Transfer to solicit comments.

The multi-billion dollar pipeline project has been the subject of criminal investigations. At one point, a statewide investigative grand jury subpoenaed the company over documents relating to the accidental release of drilling fluids and their effects on the water supply.

Energy Transfer acknowledged in a recent report on the findings that the Attorney General examined “suspected criminal misconduct involving the construction and related activities of the Mariner East pipelines.” “

The August 2020 spill at Marsh Creek was part of a series of episodes that plagued Mariner East since construction began in 2017, making it one of the most penalized projects in the history of the ‘State.

The company has paid more than $ 16.4 million in fines for polluting rivers and drinking water wells, including a fine of $ 12.6 million in 2018, one of the largest never imposed by the State Department of Environmental Protection. State regulators have periodically halted construction.

But environmental activists and homeowners who claim their water has been polluted say the fines and periodic shutdown orders haven’t forced Sunoco to clean up its act. They called for the revocation of Mariner East’s licenses.

The Mariner East pipeline system transports propane, ethane and butane from the massive Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale gas fields in western Pennsylvania to a refinery processing center and export terminal in Marcus Hook , outside of Philadelphia.

Shapiro’s press conference was initially postponed to Monday, but was abruptly postponed after his office said it received late-breaking “new information” that it needed to assess.

Texas-based Energy Transfer also operates the Dakota Access pipeline, which entered service in 2017 after months of protests from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others during its construction.

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