Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sunoco settles with enviro groups over Pa. pipeline drilling

Sunoco’s Mariner East 1 pipeline right-of-way in the Tuscarora State Forest. Photo by Harvey Nickey.

Pennsylvania's Environmental Hearing Board yesterday approved a settlement that Clean Air Council, Mountain Watershed Association, and Delaware Riverkeeper Network reached with the state's Department of Environmental Protection and Sunoco Pipeline L.P. The agreement provides protection to the public from Sunoco’s horizontal directional drilling operations associated with its Mariner East 2 pipelines.

In a news releases announcing the settlement, the Clean Air Council said: "Since April, Sunoco has had at least 90 spills of drilling fluid as a result of horizontal directional drilling, a process used to install the pipelines under waterways, roads, or other sensitive areas.  Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 drilling operations have also resulted in damage to water supplies in at least five locations.  The settlement agreement strengthens plans to prevent and respond to problems during construction, requires Sunoco to use experts to evaluate and improve plans for drilling at over 60 locations prior to starting or restarting drilling, and expands the identification and free testing of private water supplies."

The settlement comes after Pennsylvania’s Environmental Hearing Board granted a request by the environmental organizations on July 25, 2017 to temporarily halt Sunoco’s drilling operations along the pipeline. A hearing on the matter, scheduled for August 9 -11, has been postponed. The settlement agreement does not affect the remainder of the appeal of the permits, which will still move ahead toward trial.

More details on the settlement in Andrew Maykuth's story in “The harms that Sunoco’s recklessness is causing the public and the environment should have never happened," said Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. "The governor instructed the PA DEP to issue these permits by a specific date despite the many flaws in the applications.  DEP caved to the pressure and ignored the deficiencies. Unless our elected officials start taking the public health threat from building natural gas infrastructure seriously, this is bound to continue to happen,”

“With this settlement, we are getting better protections for our community and the environment which is good,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “But it is wrong that our organizations had to bring this legal action to get us to this point..”

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