Mariner east construction, operation halted again in chester county stateimpact pennsylvania electricity and magnetism physics definition


Jon is an experienced journalist who has covered a wide range of general and business-news stories for national and local media in the U.S. and his native U.K. As a former Reuters reporter, he spent several years covering the early stages of Pennsylvania’s natural gas fracking boom and was one of the first national reporters to write about the effects of gas development on rural communities. Jon trained as a general news reporter with a British newspaper chain and later worked for several business-news organizations including Bloomberg News and Market News International, covering topics including economics, bonds, currencies and monetary policy. Since 2011, he has been a freelance writer, contributing Philadelphia-area news to The New York Times; covering economics for Market News, and writing stories on the environment and other subjects for a number of local outlets including StateImpact. He has written two travel guidebooks to the European Alps; lived in Australia, Switzerland, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, and visited many countries including Ethiopia, Peru, Taiwan, and New Zealand. Outside of work hours, Jon can be found running, birding, cooking, and, when weather permits, gardening in the back yard of a Philadelphia row home where he lives with his partner, Kate.

Mariner East 2 pipeline construction crews work in the backyards of homes on Lisa Drive in West Whiteland Township, Chester County, on May 2. Sinkholes that opened in the area prompted the state’s Public Utility Commission to order that an existing pipeline nearby, the Mariner East 1, be shut down until it could be determined that the sinkholes didn’t threaten its safety. PUC on May 3 approved a re-start of Mariner East 1 which will now be shut down again following a judge’s order.

A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday halted construction of Sunoco’s two new Mariner East pipelines, as well as the operation of the existing Mariner East 1 pipeline in Chester County’s West Whiteland Township, granting an emergency petition by state Sen. Andy Dinniman.

Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth Barnes said in an order that she was persuaded by Dinniman’s argument that the pipelines are a risk to public safety in the township, and granted his emergency petition for a halt to construction and operation of the pipelines until the PUC determines that they are safe.

“I find there to be an imminent risk to the public and a need for immediate relief and further study to be done on ME1, ME2 and ME2X for the Commission and its Bureau of Safety Engineers to evaluate before construction should resume on ME 2 or ME2X in West Whiteland Twp. and before a potential catastrophic event occurs on ME 1,” the judge wrote in an order issued Thursday after two days of hearings on the Senator’s petition earlier this month.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

The order reimposes a shutdown on the operation of Mariner East 1 that the PUC ordered in early March after sinkholes appeared at Lisa Drive, a West Whiteland site where the new lines are being built alongside the existing pipeline. The first order was lifted in early May after the PUC concluded that there was no problem with the integrity of the old line.

The new order said: “Sunoco Pipeline L.P. is enjoined from beginning and shall cease and desist all current operation, construction, including drilling activities on the Mariner East 1, 2 and Mariner East 2X pipeline in West Whiteland Township, Pennsylvania until the entry of a final Commission Order ending the formal amended complaint proceeding.”

“Specifically, the safe operation of ME1 was verified through exhaustive geophysical testing and analysis that was verified by the PUC’s Investigation & Enforcement division and their experts, which was the basis for the PUC’s 5-0 decision to return the line to service,” the company said.

For ME1, which was built in the 1930s and has recently been repurposed to carry natural gas liquids, the ruling means the entire pipeline will be shut down even though the ruling refers only to West Whiteland Township, said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, a spokesman for the PUC.

The order is the latest blow for a pipeline project that has been plagued with technical, environmental and legal problems since it began construction in February 2017. Last summer, construction was temporarily halted by the Environmental Hearing Board, a state court, after multiple spills of drilling fluid into waterways and private land along the 350-mile route across southern Pennsylvania.

Residents along the pipeline route, especially those in the densely populated suburbs west of Philadelphia, say the pressurized natural gas liquids to be carried by the new lines represent a threat to public safety because of their highly explosive nature, which they say is greater than that of traditional natural gas pipelines.

But the judge echoed activists’ safety concerns, and said Sunoco had not done enough to ensure that residents know how to protect themselves if there’s a leak from the line. She accused the company of providing only “boilerplate” information to residents who have asked for specific instructions on how to respond to a hazardous liquids emergency.

But the PUC’s Hagen-Frederiksen said the May 3 decision was specific to the West Whiteland neighborhood of Lisa Drive, where the sinkholes appeared starting late last year, and that the commissioners had invited the public to file their own complaints about the project. The order applies to the township as a whole, and is expected to require a re-examination of all the geology that the pipelines go through there.

“The Public Utility Commission’s Order provides much needed protection for the public from the dangers Sunoco has inflicted upon communities in Chester County and beyond,” said Joseph Otis Minott, executive director of Clean Air Council, which has led legal challenges to the project. He called the ruling a “great victory.”

“This activist Judge’s decision flies in the face of the extensive testing and review overseen by the Pennsylvania Utility Commission which led to the Commission’s unanimous decision to allow operations of Mariner East 1 to resume just three weeks ago,” it said.

In her 26-page ruling, the judge said Mariner East 1 had leaked three times in the last year, including on April 1, 2017, in Morgantown, Berks County where about 1,000 gallons of natural gas liquids escaped. It took Sunoco 90 minutes to shut the pipeline down. “This is a dangerous quantity of hazardous gas,” she wrote.