Chester County DA announces Mariner East pipeline criminal investigation

Jim Melwert
December 19, 2018 - 1:04 pm
Pipeline construction

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Chester County District Attorney’s office has announced a criminal investigation into the controversial Mariner East pipeline. 

“We have seen some things that have happened here in Chester County that have drawn our specific attention for law enforcement," Chester County DA Tom Hogan said Wednesday.

Hogan says over Thanksgiving he visited homes in West Whiteland affected by construction of the pipelines.

“And I could see the terrible damage that had been doen to their property, and I could see the fear on their faces about what was going on, and at that point I realized we needed to step in and do something," he said.

He says they’ve asked Sunoco and its parent company Energy Transfer LP to preserve all documents relating to sink holes and well water contamination in the county and also to an explosion along a natural gas pipeline in Beaver County. 

REALTED: Results are in on risk assessment regarding Mariner East 2 pipeline

“We have seen these incidents happen and, quite frankly, we were waiting for the governor or the (Public Utilities Commission ) to step in and ensure the safety of this pipeline and they chose not to do so,” Hogan said.

The construction projects have been slapped with fines, and the PUC has suspended permits over prior violations. And Hogan says he realizes his jurisdiction only goes so far, but he says his office can make sure they comply with all criminal laws.

“We also hope by letting the company know that we are overseeing this, that we are investigating, that we do have eyes on what is going on, that they will behave appropriately,” he said.

The Mariner East pipeline ships natural gas from Western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook in Delaware County and bisects Chester County. 

“We’ve gone from hypothetical risk to actual harms," Hogan said. "We want to make sure that anything that happens here in Chester County, people understand they could be liable.”

Energy Transfer has released a statement saying they were surprised to learn the DA’s office thinks there is a legal basis for conducting a criminal investigation.

"We were surprised to learn that the Chester County District Attorney believes there is a legal basis for conducting a criminal investigation into our company and the Mariner East pipelines. We vehemently deny any such wrongdoing and we take issue with the many factual inaccuracies contained in the District Attorney’s press release. We have worked closely with Commonwealth officials and inspectors to respond to citizen concerns as evidenced by the information on our project that is readily available on the PUC and DEP websites. We are confident that we have not acted to violate any criminal laws in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and we are committed to aggressively defending ourselves against these baseless allegations. We look forward to opening a dialogue with the District Attorney’s Office in the hope that we can bring this matter to an appropriate resolution. The safety of all those who live and work along our pipeline is our first priority and this project was planned and implemented based on that fact."

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, who has been advocating on behalf of residents near the pipeline, says he is glad other elected officials are listening and taking action against the Mariner East project.

He says the Public Utility Commission has issued a formal complaint about Sunoco's failure to adequately address corrosion on aging pipelines.

Dinniman says he welcomes further scrutiny and investigation from the PUC, the Department of Environmental Protection and the state Attorney General's office.

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