Drilling Resumes on Mariner East 2 Pipeline, Sunoco Agrees to More Oversight

Drilling plans for those sites will then need to be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for approval.

After months of protests, hearings and legal wrangling, Sunoco reached a settlement agreement on its embattled natural liquid gas pipeline.

Sunoco agreed to re-evaluate high-risk sites associated with its 350-mile Mariner East 2 project, which will run through Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to a settlement agreement.

Drilling plans for those sites will then need to be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for approval. 

"We will continue to adhere to the strict conditions of our permits, including the enhanced standards for planning, outreach and reporting," Sunoco said in a statement. "The agreement will put hundreds of workers back on the job as we complete this transformational infrastructure project."

Sunoco has also agreed to send the plans to homeowners who have private wells near the drilling areas and offer to have their water tested.

"The harms that Sunoco’s recklessness is causing the public and the environment should have never happened," said Joseph Otis Minott, executive director and chief counsel of the Clean Air Council.

"Unless our elected officials start taking the public health threat from building natural gas infrastructure seriously, this is bound to continue to happen."

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

The agreement came down one day before a scheduled hearing with the state's Environmental Hearing Board on a petition to halt all drilling. That hearing was postponed, yet again, pending a review by the environmental board. 

Earlier this week, state senators John Rafferty Jr., a Republican from Montgomery County and Andrew E. Dinniman, a Democrat from West Chester, sent a joint letter to the Environmental Hearing Board emphasizing the "importance of responsible state agency oversight" in the construction of pipelines through Chester County and other parts of the state.

Mariner East 2 would traverse 17 counties, but many residents have complained of tainted water supplies and pipeline spillage. Others have claimed their respective counties did not properly notify them that the pipeline run impact their homes. 

Despite repeated hearings within their own districts, the senators said it remained unclear who is ultimately responsible for oversight and management of the pipeline. 

As a result, Rafferty introduced legislation to ensure the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation bear the primary reponsibility for pipeline inspection. A second bill, sponspored by both Rafferty and Dinniman, would impose an "impact fee" that would go to areas impacted by any pipelines. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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