DEP suspends construction permits for Mariner East 2 pipeline; Berks Gas Truth says its due to drilling mud spills

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection suspended construction permits associated with the Mariner East 2 pipeline until Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. meets the requirements outlined in the order.

According to the DEP release, Sunoco must cease all construction activity on the pipeline project, except for maintenance of erosion controls and limited maintenance of horizontal directional drilling equipment.

“Until Sunoco can demonstrate that the permit conditions can and will be followed, DEP has no alternative but to suspend the permits,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell in the release. “We are living up to our promise to hold this project accountable to the strong protections in the permits.”

Under the order, according to the release, “all activities permitted under Chapter 102 and Chapter 105 of the PA Code must immediately cease. The permits will be suspended until Sunoco satisfies the terms outlined in the order, including, but not limited to, address all impacts to private water wells in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County; identify all in-progress or upcoming construction activities and detail the specific Chapter 102 and Chapter 105 permit under which the activity is authorized; and submit a detailed Operations Plan outlining additional measures and controls to minimize inadvertent returns.”

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Berks Gas Truth founder Karen Feridun, Kutztown, gave a statement, saying DEP’s decision to temporarily halt construction of the Mariner East II pipeline is welcome news, but that the order is far from being the solution communities across the state have needed and have sought.

“One of the violations that led to this decision occurred in Berks County when Sunoco operated outside of its permit to do Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) that led to a drilling mud spill in the Hay Creek watershed that the company then failed to report. It is demonstrative of the utter lack of regard Sunoco has for the health and safety of communities along the route and for the regulatory process,” said Feridun.

“The Department of Environmental Protection should never have issued the permits that have now resulted in about 100 drilling mud spills. In its last letters of deficiency issued in September of 2016, the DEP cited hundreds of remaining deficiencies in the company’s application that had been in process for years. Berks County’s letter alone contained 115 remaining deficiencies. Communities have paid the price for the DEP’s reckless rush to permit.”

Feridun said Berks Gas Truth will continue to fight for a halt to Mariner East 2 pipeline and the other infrastructure projects planned for Berks County that will affect the watershed.

“We’ve seen too many people lose private water supplies. We’ve seen too much environmental degradation. We now face the possibility of the DEP issuing permits for a power plant and pipeline on a highly contaminated site,” said Feridun. “The problems we’ve seen on the Mariner East II line don’t hold a candle to what we might see if the DEP makes the same mistake on the Birdsboro projects that it has made on this project.”

Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, released a statement, “Today’s Order from DEP ultimately represents DEP’s understanding that Sunoco shamelessly broke a number of terms and conditions that Delaware Riverkeeper Network and others helped secure through litigation with the Department in a settlement agreement. This Project was flawed from the start, and it is disgraceful that these flaws have manifested themselves in such a way that the public’s health, and environment have been significantly impacted. This Order provides further evidence that the project should never have been authorized by DEP in the first place.”

About the Author

Lisa Mitchell

Lisa Mitchell is the editor of The Kutztown Patriot and Managing Editor of Berks-Mont Newspapers. Reach the author at lmitchell@berksmontnews.com or follow Lisa on Twitter: @kutztownpatriot.