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Mariner East II pipeline project suspended; Lower Swatara location mentioned in order

By Dan Miller


Posted 1/3/18

Construction of the Mariner East II pipeline project in Dauphin County and 16 others has been suspended by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The order from the DEP announced …

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Mariner East II pipeline project suspended; Lower Swatara location mentioned in order


Construction of the Mariner East II pipeline project in Dauphin and 16 other counties has been suspended by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The order from the DEP announced on Wednesday, Jan. 3, specifically references permit violations by Sunoco Pipeline LP at multiple locations throughout the 17 counties, including a wetlands location in Lower Swatara Township.

But the suspension affects all other construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Dauphin County, including other locations in Londonderry and in Derry townships, said DEP spokesman Neil Shader.

Sunoco must cease all construction activity on the pipeline project, except for maintenance of erosion controls and limited maintenance of horizontal directional drilling equipment, according to a press release issued by DEP.

“Until Sunoco can demonstrate that the permit conditions can and will be followed, DEP has no alternative but to suspend the permits,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in the release. “We are living up to our promise to hold this project accountable to the strong protections in the permits.”

DEP cannot provide an estimate as to how long the suspension will be in place, Shader said.

Jeff Shields, a spokesman on the Mariner East 2 pipeline, emailed the following statement last week to the Press & Journal regarding the DEP order:

“We received an order this morning from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that instructed us to suspend construction activities in Pennsylvania with respect to Mariner East 2 until reauthorized by the Pennsylvania DEP.”

It continued: “The order requires us to submit various reports related to current and future construction activities. We intend to expeditiously submit these reports and we are confident that we will be reauthorized to commence work on this project promptly. We also reiterate our commitment to the highest levels of construction expertise and our dedication to preserving and protecting the environment in which we conduct our work.”

Among the violations noted, DEP in the order says that Sunoco conducted “unauthorized pipeline installation activities” at the Dauphin County Horizontal Directional Drilling site between Nov. 8 and Nov. 20.

That location is near North Union Street and Oberlin Road/Pennsylvania 441.

Wetland C28 in Lower Swatara Township is the “receiving water” for discharges from the Dauphin HDD site, according to the order. Sunoco is not authorized to conduct HDD activities at this site, the order says.

The order issued Jan. 3 does not refer to a notice of violation that DEP had issued on Aug. 30 regarding a spill of drilling fluids that occurred as part of the pipeline project in Lower Swatara.

The spill occurred Aug. 24 in the Susquehanna River just south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Bridge in the township, according to the DEP notice.

DEP in the notice also said that the Aug. 24 spill was the second spill that had occurred at the same location in Lower Swatara, but that the contents of the first spill had never been recovered.

The suspension order issued Jan. 3 also refers to unauthorized activities at a pipeline site in an upland area east of Locust Point Road in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County.

On Dec. 18, Sunoco notified DEP that it had received complaints from two separate private water supply owners in the vicinity of the Cumberland County site that they were experiencing cloudy water. The first complaint was filed on Dec. 15, the second on Dec. 18, according to the DEP order.

The order requires that Sunoco address “all alleged impacts to private water wells in Silver Spring Township … to the satisfaction of the private well owners, to include replacement or restoration of the water supply and reimbursement of any costs of displacement during the period when the water supply is adversely impacted.”

$2.5 billion project

A $2.5 billion project, the Mariner East 2 pipeline is an expansion of the existing Sunoco Mariner East pipeline system. The pipeline is to transport liquefied petroleum gases, also known as natural gas liquids, across about 350 miles stretching throughout the 17 counties in the southern tier of Pennsylvania.

In May, Sunoco officials had said they hoped to complete the pipeline in 2018.

Several groups issued statements reacting to the suspension. Pipeline opponents praised DEP’s action, while supporters urged the state agency move quickly to restart the project.

“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but the only responsible course of action for Gov. Wolf is to stop the Mariner East 2 altogether,” said Sam Rubin of Food & Water Watch. “This project, which was green lighted with flawed permits, was never going to be safe for the people of Pennsylvania. What we really need is a full and permanent halt to construction and a full, transparent, and public assessment of the risks associated with the Mariner East 2. The movement to stop the pipeline will be using this temporary halt to build the power we know we’ll need to protect communities from Mariner East once and for all.”

Kurt Knaus, spokesman for the pro-pipeline Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, noted the agreement that was approved in August by the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board “to advance construction along the entire stretch of the 350-mile Mariner East 2 pipeline.”

“Sunoco and DEP should work expeditiously to resolve this matter in order for safe pipeline construction to continue, not just for the benefit of the workers who may be idled, but also for the full protection of Pennsylvania’s environment,” Knaus said in an email to the Press & Journal.

“Industry experts agree that actions that cause construction and horizontal directional drilling to start and stop, start and stop have the potential for even greater harm.”