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Pennsylvania halts construction of pipeline amid permit violations

Rural town in Pennsylvania. Source: Wikimedia Commons, by Nicholas A. Tonelli.
Rural town in Pennsylvania. Source: Wikimedia Commons, by Nicholas A. Tonelli.

Sunoco has been ordered to stop construction of its Mariner East II natural gas pipeline until it complies with state-issued permits.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) website, there have been 32 permit violations to date. The most recent is from 22 December, citing unauthorised horizontal directional drilling (HDD) affecting local water supplies. The company was only permitted to use open trench methods.

The pipeline is intended to transport ethane, propane and ‘other petroleum products’ from Marcellus Shale to markets in Pennsylvania, according to the company’s website. When completed, the twenty and sixteen inch pipes will reach a capacity of 345 thousand barrels per day for inter and intra-state service. Both pipes are expected to be completed in 2018.

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

The order was issued 3 December, using authority given by the Clean Streams Law and the Dam Safety and Encroachment Act. Sunoco are required to file numerous reports with the State, including the disclosure of any other unpermitted changes to construction and a plan to ensure that the company complies with permits.

The company responded to the order, saying that “We intend to expeditiously submit these reports and we are confident that we will be reauthorized to commence work on this project promptly.”

Rural town in Pennsylvania. Source: Wikimedia Commons, by Nicholas A. Tonelli.