Mariner East 2 - Sunoco
On September 27, 2015, Sunoco submitted an application to the Delaware River Basin Commission for its Pennsylvania Pipeline Project, also referred to as Mariner East 2. According to its August 2015 application, Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline would cut across 79 wetlands and 195 streams in the Delaware River Basin in Berks, Chester, and Delaware Counties, impacting 221 acres in Berks County, 184 acres in Chester County and 83 acres in Delaware County within the Delaware River Basin. Since beginning construction the pipeline has wreaked havoc across the state of Pennsylvania. In response, DRN has initiated two lawsuits against Sunoco and demanded that the DRBC suspend its docket.
In August, 2017, in resolution of legal action the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, in partnership with the Clean Air Council and Mountain Watershed Association brought against the Sunoco Mariner East project, the groups entered into a settlement with the DEP and Sunoco to prevent spills of drilling fluid associated with Sunoco’s horizontal directional drilling and to protect drinking water supplies and fragile ecosystems across the state. Since then, more spills have occurred, adding to the over 100 spills of drilling fluid to date. For example, during the course of less than a week in early October, 2017 there were four spills at a site in Chester County located at Boot Road and Enterprise Drive. Drilling continued anyway.
In response, on October 24, 2017, the organizations filed a motion requesting that the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board direct the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to abide by a court-ordered protocol designed to prevent spills of drilling fluid along the Mariner East 2 pipelines.
The August settlement had been adopted by the Environmental Hearing Board as a Stipulated Order and established a protocol that the Department and Sunoco must follow in responding to spills. The protocol is designed to prevent repeat spills and requires Sunoco to stop drilling until the Department inspects the site of a spill and ensures more spills won’t happen there.
The Department has not been applying the protocol in all instances, resulting in Sunoco continuing to spill drilling fluid at the same sites. Monday’s motion requests that the Board clarify the spill protocol to ensure the protections the parties agreed to are followed moving forward.
“It is unfortunate that once again it is the responsibility of non-profit organizations to ensure that the Department appropriately responds to Sunoco’s ongoing spills,” said Maya K. van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
The Board’s Order is part of an ongoing appeal of 20 deficient water permits the Department issued for the Mariner East 2 pipelines in February. That Order was entered after the Board had halted all horizontal directional drilling for the Mariner East 2 pipelines due to the damage Sunoco’s drilling practices was causing to drinking water supplies and the environment.
DRN continues to monitor a few areas along the construction route where continued issues and violations are occurring along the ME2 route. A real time water testing probe was installed by DRN and Stroud in December to document water quality conditions. Landowners along the route continue to document harms and violations and DRN has photo documented and provided reports to the Conservation District for follow up and enforcement.
Updates June12, 2018
Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Sunoco Pipeline L.P. for their failure to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES permit) for the Mariner East II pipeline project.
NPDES permits are required under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law (CSL). The complaint states:
“During construction of an industrial scale natural-gas liquids pipeline, Defendant Sunoco Pipeline LLC (hereinafter “Sunoco”) illegally discharged, and continues to discharge, pollution in the form of sediment-laden stormwater to Pennsylvania’s waters on multiple occasions, causing or contributing to violations of water quality standards on numerous occasions and in various counties across the state of Pennsylvania.”
Construction and operation of the pipeline has resulted in numerous unlawful discharges of sediment-laden water and other pollutants into waters of the United States in violation of the CWA and the CSL. Sunoco has been operating without the necessary permit for 399 days, which subjects Sunoco to civil penalties as high as $14,962,500.
“Sunoco is polluting our waterways and violating the law. The violations are blatant, willful and having devastating impacts on our environment. Neither the state nor federal government has enforced this critical permitting requirement on the pipeline company, which is one of the many reasons we are seeing so much environmental harm. Our laws were passed for a reason, to protect the environment from environmental degradation and harm. Pennsylvania’s government is failing miserably when it comes to these fracked gas and fracked gas liquids pipelines. Once again, we the people are having to stand up in our own defense,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
DRN is requesting the Court require Sunoco to obtain and comply with a NPDES permit, perform ground water assessments, provide relief to nearby residents if assessments show water contamination, and pay all civil penalties associated with the permit violations.
Sunoco has faced several fines and permit suspensions throughout construction of the Mariner East II project for violations such as drilling fluid spills and water contamination. Sunoco’s construction activities have also caused large sinkholes to open up in a residential neighborhoods, threatening the integrity of the parallel Mariner East 1 pipeline and consequently leading the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) to issue an Emergency Order temporarily suspending Sunoco’s operations to prevent “catastrophic results impacting the public.” A judge at the PUC specifically noted that Sunoco has “made deliberate managerial decisions to proceed in what appears to be a rushed manner in an apparent prioritization of profit over the best engineering practices available.”
Update June 15, 2018
Delaware Riverkeeper Network wrote to the Delaware River Basin Commission urging them to suspend the Docket provided the project and to undertake a thorough review of the project, because of significant and ongoing violations, the damaging impacts it is having on water resources of the basin, and the need for significant restoration and mitigation activities before any considerations regarding how, when or to what extent construction should be allowed to continue.
Update: July 3, 2018
After DRBC refused our request to take action to suspend the DRBC docket for Mariner East, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, joined by many community organizations, pushed back. See our letter here.