Opposition groups continue to spread misinformation about pipeline projects. Their target this week is Mariner East 2—a 350-mile pipeline that would carry natural gas liquids across the state of Pennsylvania, terminating at the Marcus Hook facility south of Philadelphia. A recently published blog from fringe activist group “FracTracker” mischaracterizes several commonly misunderstood elements of pipeline projects such as Mariner East 2. These attempts to instill fear by glazing over the truth are disingenuous and ultimately a disservice to the communities that will benefit from a completed pipeline.
A frequent target of pipeline opponent’s ire is horizontal directional drilling (HDD). What is often ignored in the panicked rhetoric over HDD is that it is an industry best practice to be more environmentally sensitive during construction of large infrastructure projects like fiber optic cable installation, as well as energy and water pipelines. HDD is simply a process of installing pipelines underground in a manner that mitigates potential environmental impacts. The three steps involved in the trenchless process—drilling a small hole directionally along the pre-planned path, widening the hole slightly, and installing the pipeline by pulling the pipe back through the hole—help ensure that environmental impacts are kept to a minimum.
Another point of fixation amongst the opposition is Inadvertent Returns (IRs). The truth is, IRs are going to happen in any large infrastructure installation project, but equally true is that they are not harmful. In fact, the liquid from an IRis a mixture of natural water that is safe for drinking and an environmentally friendly clay called bentonite. Bentonite is commonly used in many everyday products including sunscreen, hand soap, body lotion, fabric softener, and bubble baths and is recognized as safe by the FDA. While IRs may result in water cloudiness in areas near the drilling, it is both temporary and non-harmful.
Throughout the process of building Mariner East 2, Sunoco has displayed an ongoing good faith effort to work with the community. The company has hired the highest skilled, best trained tradesman to build the pipeline, many of whom are from the communities that the pipeline will run through. In fact, reports have found that Sunoco not only meets, but exceeds all safety requirements. Further, Sunoco has gone above and beyond to put local minds at ease, holding community meetings and entering into an agreement with anti-pipeline groups.
In spite of these efforts, groups continue to fight the project. Recent stall tactics from the opposition have focused on calling for a risk assessment of Mariner East 2, a measure that would be both costly and unnecessary. The concerns that would be addressed through any independent risk assessment have already been thoroughly reviewed during the existing regulatory process. Ultimately the burden of conducting a redundant risk assessment would fall to the taxpayer as it would be funded in part by local governments.
Pipeline opponents are to use ideologically charged statements and employ scare tactics that glaze over the facts: Pipelines are the safest means to transport energy and Mariner East 2 will be a boon to local economies, providing a $9.1 billion positive benefit. Logic and facts must prevail in this debate. It is time to complete the Mariner East 2 pipeline.