Sunoco gas pipeline and construction project shut down again amid safety concerns

David Madden
May 24, 2018 - 5:41 pm
Pipeline Generic

WEST WHITELAND TWP, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) -- The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has, again, brought work on the Mariner East 2 natural gas pipeline to a halt in a part of Chester County. And Mariner East 1 has been shut down as well.

Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth Barnes agreed with the arguments made by Pa. State Sen. Andrew Dinniman.

"The case we had made concerning the hazards that can come from this pipeline constitutes a danger, and there needs to be further review," Dinniman said. 

The order requires Sunoco Pipeline to conduct more tests not only on the construction project in West Whiteland Township but on the existing and operational pipeline, to alleviate safety concerns. They must also demonstrate a coordinated emergency response plan with local authorities in the event of a problem that might require evacuations.

Dinniman actually thought he might lose this case, given the fight Sunoco put up.

"They brought in teams of lawyers. They had 10 paid consultants," he added. "I had one lawyer and a couple of interveners. One a citizen. Another from the Clean Air Council. So it's a David and Goliath situation."

Barnes's order is subject to a vote of the entire PUC.

Sunoco officials, in a statement e-mailed to KYW Newsradio, disagreed with the order.

"Specifically, the safe operation of ME 1 was verified through exhaustive geophysical testing and analysis that was verified by the PUC's Investigation and Enforcement division and their experts, which was the basis for the PUC's 5-0 decision to return the line to service," the statement read in part.

The company says it will "pursue all legal remedies" to overturn the order. That will include a request for PUC review to be filed within the next seven days.

It also suggests the order "is a significant departure from the law and the due process procedures that the PUC follows in rendering decisions." The statement concluded, "The entire energy industry should be concerned about today's order and consider this result when making decisions regarding future capital investments in the state as it upends Pennsylvania's entire regulatory environment."