New Legislation Would Create More Oversight for Mariner East 2 Pipeline

What to Know

  • The 350-mile pipeline will carry natural liquid gas from Ohio to Delaware County.
  • Mariner East 2 will cross some 23 miles in Chester County and more than 11 miles in Delco.
  • The pipeline has a projected cost of $2.5 billion.

Chester County resident David Mano was hosting a Fourth of July party this year when he first learned that his drinking water had a strange taste. A guest took a sip and then spat it out, he said.

“I didn’t even notice it,” Mano said. “I guess I was just used to it.”

Mano called a plumber and the next day learned his well water was contaminated with bacteria.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mano brought a jar of the murky water along with a second jar filled with sediment to a rally in Harrisburg. The contents of both jars came from his private water supply, which he said was compromised by the Mariner East 2 Pipeline.

Previous spills along the Mariner East 2 primarily consisted of non-toxic bentonite clay, which is not harmful to humans or animals.

Mano joined state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-Chester County, and other lawmakers as they introduced legislation to more closely regulate the embattled pipeline after four recent spills in Chester County.

“We have serious concerns regarding Mariner East 2, but this is a statewide issue with myriad individuals and families across the commonwealth impacted by the seemingly endless number of pipeline projects that are either already underway or on the horizon,” Dinniman said.

The 350-mile pipeline will carry natural liquid gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shales in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex along the Delaware River. From there, the gas is processed and distributed to domestic and international destinations.

Natural gas liquid includes propane, ethane, butane and natural gasoline that can be used for heating, cooking and filling up motor vehicle gas tanks.

More than 80 percent of this pipeline will follow the same corridor as the existing Mariner East 1 project, which was completed in late 2014. It will have an initial capacity of approximately 275,000 barrels a day. 

Plans for Mariner East 2 include some 23 miles in Chester County and more than 11 miles in Delco. It has a projected cost of $2.5 billion.

Spills continue to affect residents who live and work near the pipeline.

At least 16 inadvertent water returns - the unintended transfer of drilling mud to the surface - have been recorded by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection between May and September in Delaware and Chester counties.

Four more spills were recorded during a five-day period in October, according to the DEP.

The continued spills spurred on Dinniman.

“Right now, we’re totally dependent on a company and a company whose primary goal is profit,” he said. “We understand the jobs and benefits of [the pipeline], but what we do oppose is the failure to provide adequate safety and health protections that should come side by side with the pipeline.”

A spokesman for Sunoco said the company worked at length with both community and state officials throughout the permitting and construction of Mariner East 2, including hosting some 200 informational sessions with local stakeholders. 

"The pipeline is being built to the most stringent construction standards," Jeff Shields said. "It will be monitored 24/7 and we will operate it at all times with safety as our highest priority, as we have done successfully for more than 85 years." 

The pipeline is regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for safety, Shields added. The DEP oversees the project's environmental impact.

His proposed legislation would require pipeline companies to submit an application to the Public Utility Commission proving that a project meets certain safety and environmental protocols before being approved. Companies would be mandated to consult with the DEP and local municipalities before beginning construction.

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Dinniman is also calling for a review of eminent domain clauses that allow private companies to seize land from homeowners and for local municipalities to levy a fee on pipelines to fund increased emergency response services and related expenses.

“We need to, at least, pause a bit and make sure what we build is safe,” he said. “The environment does not belong to any single corporation, not to any single group.”

Securing a permit for the pipeline took more than two years, Shields said. The process included working with the DEP on at least eight occasions, including submitting and reviewing applications and holding five public comment meetings.  

"We have worked closely with the Emergency Services community to train more than 1,800 first responders in Pennsylvania alone for our Mariner system to and help counties incorporate pipelines into their emergency response plans," he said.

But the Mariner East 2 Pipeline has been fraught from the very beginning. In July, Mano and his neighbors were forced to drink bottled water after a spill caused by horizontal directional drilling was discovered. A judge ordered Sunoco to immediately halt all drilling, which did not resume until after an Aug. 9 hearing created new rules regarding where and how Sunoco could drill.

The new proposed pipeline will be built parallel to the existing line before splitting off in Middletown to meet at Chester Township. View Larger

In addition to well water contamination, residents who live along the route have complained that they were never told a pipeline would slash through their backyard.

Mano’s Exton home is just 82 feet from the pipeline, he said. His well is 80 feet away. On Tuesday, he choked up describing he prolonged battle with Sunoco, which formed a limited partnership with Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) to build Mariner East 2.

“We’ve been giving this water to our pets. We have an organic garden, but now we don’t even know if we can eat the fruit,” he said. 

And Mano’s neighbors won’t even talk to him, he added. Mano attributed his sudden pariah status to rejecting a $60,000 offer from ETP after he and other residents complained about their contaminated water supply. Sunoco offered homeowners were offered a free hook up to Aqua Pennsylvania, the public water utility nearby, along with a stipend to pay for it.

But Mano did not take the offer because it would prevent him from speaking out against the company or suing, he said.

“Now we’re the black sheep of the neighborhood,” he said. “This is very difficult. This is not fair. Sunoco should not be allowed to do this.”

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