Sunoco Free to Move Ahead on Mariner East Pipelines in West Whiteland, Chester County

Sunoco Free to Move Ahead on Mariner East pipelines in West Whiteland, Chester County

WEST WHITELAND, PA — Sunoco may restart work at six sites in West Whiteland Township, Chester County, under existing approvals, despite still needing an end to a statewide ban on new permits for construction at Lisa Drive, reported Jon Hurdle of StateImpact Pennsylvania recently, a journalism project of NPR member stations.

According to the report, Sunoco overcame the major obstruction to its Mariner East pipelines project when the Public Utility Commission recently lifted an injunction against construction in Chester County. However, the company will still need environmental officials to end the statewide ban on new permits to receive approval on permit modifications for the Lisa Drive site.

A Sunoco spokesperson declined to say how much of the Mariner East pipelines, as a whole, remains to be completed, yet did state Mariner East 2X, one of the new pipes, will be completed by the end of 2019.

Since the project began in early 2017, the state crossing, multibillion-dollar pipeline project suffered from repeated delays, court and regulator ordered shutdowns, and public opposition. In response to these various setbacks, last December Sunoco began pumping natural gas liquids to a terminal in Delaware County by connecting sections of new pipe with existing lines of different diameters.

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In May, Chester County Commissioners asked the Court of Common Pleas to immediately halt pipeline construction on county land, including the Chester County Library and Chester Valley Trail, and commissioners requested the court issue a permanent injunction blocking the project on those parcels. The court has not yet ruled.

The project’s legal problems continued last week when Chester County’s District Attorney Office announced it has served a formal notice on Sunoco and affiliated entities of an intent to bring a civil public nuisance action regarding the construction and operation of the Mariner East pipeline project.

The Chester County’s District Attorney Office is also conducting a separate criminal investigation into Mariner East. The District Attorney’s investigation is covering both past and future conduct related to the pipelines.

Sunoco is aware of this investigation and said in a recent statement that it was already “well on our way” to resolving the issues in the District Attorney’s complaint. Additionally, the company did announce it had completed all remediation of drilling fluid spills required by regulators and is under a Department of Environmental Protection order to cover any exposed pipes, including those in Chester County.

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Nevertheless, the Department of Environmental Protection has yet to approve two requested permit modifications and a “reevaluation plan” for the Lisa Drive site, as ordered by a court in an effort to prevent any more drilling mud spills, or “inadvertent returns,” which tormented the project in 2017 and 2018.

Sunoco’s work at Lisa Drive is negatively impacted by a statewide ban on new clean-water permits for the project. There are a total of 32 sites across the state, which does include Lisa Drive, where final approval for Sunoco’s reevaluation plans, which reevaluates local geology and assesses if the pipelines are safe to build.

StateImpact Pennsylvania is a collaboration among WITF, WHYY, WESA, and The Allegheny Front.  The project is funded, in part, through grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Wyncote Foundation, and William Penn Foundation. If you would like to read the Jon Hurdle article on StateImpact Pennsylvania, click here.

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