Published: Sat, February 10, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

State fines Sunoco Pipeline $12.7M, allows construction to continue

State fines Sunoco Pipeline $12.7M, allows construction to continue

DEP alleges dozens of legal violations by Sunoco since May, including releases of fluids into waterways, multiple unauthorized uses of horizontal drilling, unauthorized construction over a creek, violation of an order to re-evaluate construction techniques and unauthorized construction in a wild trout fishery.

Work on the pipeline resumed Thursday morning.

That earlier suspension forced ETP to delay until the second quarter of this year the expected startup of Mariner East 2.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued a $12.6 million civil penalty to Sunoco Pipeline, LLP for permit violations related to the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline project, that both parties have entered into a Consent Order and Agreement specifying the penalty, and that the department has lifted its order suspending DEP-permitted operations.

In announcing the action on Thursday, the state Department of Environmental Protection said the fine was one of the largest it has ever collected in a single settlement.

Dinniman's concerns were echoed by Del-Chesco United for Public Safety, a community group that says the pipeline represents a grave risk to public safety, especially in DE and Chester counties. A 24-page administrative order suspended construction permits associated with the pipeline until Sunoco met a laundry list of requirements outlined in the order.

"Finally, DEP and the governor's office are taking the egregious behavior of Sunoco seriously", said Joseph Otis Minott, the executive director the Clean Air Council.

But developers also must pay a "historic" $12.6 million civil penalty for violating terms of DEP construction permits while building the 300-plus-mile pipeline.

The statement said that "all permit conditions will be followed at all times moving forward, as well as additional measures and controls that Sunoco will implement to minimize inadvertent returns and water supply incidents".

State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester County), an outspoken critic of the pipeline, rejected the DEP's assurances, saying the fine won't undo the environmental damage done by the pipeline construction so far, and accusing DEP of ignoring community calls for an assessment of safety risks that may be posed by the pipeline.

"Throughout the life of this project, DEP has consistently held this operator to the highest standard possible", DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in the press release.

The $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 project traverses 17 counties in southern Pennsylvania.

But Food & Water Watch organizer Sam Rubin said DEP has made "an outrageous deal" that "sacrifices the health and safety of Pennsylvanians for mere pocket change from Sunoco". "DEP's action proves that regulators are being an effective watchdog to ensure safe, responsible development".

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