Two anti-pipeline court appeals were denied by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday. The appeals, filed by anti – pipeline groups sought to stop construction of Mariner East 2 citing infringements on zoning and land development ordinances.
The decision by the Supreme Court comes as no surprise as regulatory and judiciary bodies have repeatedly found the Mariner East 2 project to be in compliance with laws and ordinances at every level. In April the Commonwealth Court issued an opinion throwing out eminent domain challenges levied on pipeline construction.
Tuesday’s denial of the two appeals and the opinion issued in April are backed by a designation of “public utility service” given to Sunoco Pipeline through the Pennsylvania Utility Commission, the state’s highest energy regulator. Despite approval from lower courts, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and regulatory agencies, pipeline opponents are still looking for any frivolous opportunity to delay or halt pipeline construction.
Mariner East 2 stands as an important opportunity for the state of Pennsylvania, and the country, to become major providers in natural gas. Decisions by the courts in Pennsylvania highlights the compliance standards Sunoco holds itself to and is encouraging news for the natural gas industry.
As construction of Mariner East 2 pipeline reaches the finish line, radical opponents are once again pushing false narratives, claiming any positive coverage of pipeline development as “fake news.”
Vista Today posted an article about how Sunoco has exceeded regulations during pipeline construction to ensure that Mariner East 2 operates safely in communities across Pennsylvania. It stated the following:
- It starts in the pipe mill, where inspectors oversee the manufacturing of the pipe to strict standards. The pipe is inspected again when it arrives on the construction site.
- Before and after the pipeline is buried, and ongoing once they are in operation, Energy Transfer Partners puts its pipelines through rigorous testing above and beyond what is required by federal safety regulations. Then, it monitors them 24/7, 365 days a year, from its central monitoring facility.
- The company employs heavier pipe-wall thickness than required by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The higher quality of pipe reduces the risk of damage from sources such as excavating equipment or ground movement.
- Energy Transfer Partners buries the pipeline deeper underground than required in most cases — at least four feet and up to 200.
- The company inspects 100 percent of the pipeline’s mainline girth welds by X-ray, rather than the 10 percent required.
- Energy Transfer Partners patrols its Mariner East pipelines more frequently, by ground and air, than required.
- The company teams with local emergency responders along the route to provide information and training on emergency pipeline response. Since 2014, it has trained more than 2,000 emergency responders and public officials.
- State and federal regulators spent more than 100 inspection days during 2017 on the Mariner East project, more inspection days than on any other pipeline in Pennsylvania.
To no ones’ surprise pipeline opponents slammed the piece, calling it “fake news.” To be clear something is not simply untrue just because you choose to dismiss it. Anti-pipeline groups can’t comprehend that pipelines are built safely due to their own ideological bias. They choose to pull the wool over their eyes and deny the truth that Sunoco is utilizing the safest construction techniques and standards in the industry. It is fact that pipelines built today are the safest pipelines in operation because they utilize the most recent technologies to ensure safety. This blatant disregard for the truth doesn’t make it “fake news.”
Opposition groups are also constantly complaining that they aren’t in the know as to what is happening during the construction process. However this article details exactly what goes into building a pipeline and the rigorous safety measures that are followed, yet because it doesn’t coincide with their bias narrative it’s labeled as factually flawed.
Pennsylvania’s news outlets need to begin giving equal billing to the pipeline process by highlighting these facts that prove pipelines are being built exceeding regulations to ensure they operate safely. Bias has no place in reporting and choosing to only allow one side of the argument to be heard is a deliberate misuse of power by these outlets. Pipeline opponents have become accustomed to the bias news media, which is why they cannot fathom stories that highlight the fact that pipelines can be built safely.
Late last week, Ellen Gerhart, one of the primary anti-infrastructure activists fighting the Mariner East 2 pipeline, was arrested after violating a court order. Gerhart has long been a vocal opponent of the pipeline and has used increasingly reckless tactics to make her point. Just last September, Gerhart and Camp White Pine were encouraging fellow pipeline opponents to cause physical damage to postpone construction.
Gerhart’s latest stunts include spreading spoiled food near the construction site, starting fires near construction equipment, and standing in front of construction vehicles. Tactics such as this are not only in direct violation of a court order, but place the lives of the construction workers in jeopardy. Gerhart needs to stop putting ideological causes over public safety concerns and the law. Until then, her arrest should serve as a reminder to her fellow opponents of infrastructure progress that they are not above the law.
Last week, two protesters were arrested for trespassing while participating in the latest anti-infrastructure stunt in Pennsylvania. The women, members of “Mama Bears,” were hosting a “sit-in” at the construction site of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in an attempt to halt construction.
Anti-infrastructure groups such as these, who routinely ignore the positive benefits of the pipelines that they stringently oppose, would have you believe that they have been wronged, that they have not been allowed to have their voice heard in the debate, when the reality couldn’t be more different.
Contrary to the claims of these ideological protesters, the lengthy process from the project being proposed in 2014 to construction beginning and currently ongoing, has included more than a hundred public meetings, forums, and hearings that the company building the pipeline, Sunoco Pipeline, hosted and participated in. At each juncture, protesters and infrastructure opponents have had their opportunity to voice their opinions and raise concerns. For them to suggest differently is grossly inaccurate.
While there are differing opinions on both sides of any debate, the suggestion that they weren’t given a chance to have a say in the matter isn’t an opinion, it is a bald-faced lie. Stomping your feet and complaining isn’t the behavior of people who want to thoughtfully engage on matters of substance, it’s emblematic of toddlers who don’t get their way.
Today, anti-infrastructure groups held the most recent in a string of protests against the Mariner East 2 pipeline project, continuing to ignore the ways that natural gas production and natural gas infrastructure help Pennsylvanians.
Fringe activists like these want to govern with their ideological views, ignoring objective facts and economics. They overlook the fact that the pipelines they so adamantly oppose – such as Mariner East 2 – bring thousands of construction jobs to Pennsylvania, help local economies grow, and provide affordable, efficient, reliable energy to the Keystone state and beyond.
Their attempts to slow infrastructure progress will ultimately fail, as all of the projects underway, including Mariner East 2, have passed rigorous regulatory scrutiny. Natural gas drives Pennsylvania, and it’s helping families and communities across the state. Groups like these do not advocate for the progress Pennsylvanians want.
Over the past six months, there has been a robust debate over whether to proceed with a proposed risk assessment of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Delaware County. As reported in the The Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday, the County Council voted to reissue a proposal for the risk assessment, in spite of the fact that by many accounts, it is duplicative and costly.
One of the specialists cited in the story, Richard Kuprewicz, an independent pipeline safety expert, warned that risk assessments like the one being considered are “unscientific and technically flawed.” Instead, Kuprewicz suggests developing plans for responding to any potential incidents.
Kuprewicz’s statement underscores the futility of moving forward with such a risk assessment. Further, all of the factors that a risk assessment study conducted by the state would consider have already been accounted for throughout the existing regulatory process.
If the waste of state funds and duplication of effort is not reason enough to abandon the risk assessment, the Public Utility Commission has already stated that doing a risk assessment likely violates Pennsylvania law.
The fact remains, the existing regulatory system has proven successful and this project will be a boon to the people of Pennsylvania. Misinformation about safety and risk shouldn’t distract from economic windfall that Mariner East 2 will bring to the Keystone State.
Thankfully, yesterday the Pennsylvania PUC correctly voted to restart operations of the Mariner East 1 pipeline, overruling Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth Barnes’ decision in late May. Judge Barnes’ flimsy legal ruling created a dangerous precedent utilizing unsubstantiated claims as justification without presenting the requisite evidence. Unnecessary delays like the one caused by Judge Barnes, especially after the PUC found on May 3rd that Mariner East 1 was safe, are reckless and create uncertainty for the community. On a project where the stakes are so high— including thousands of jobs for local Pennsylvanians and a $9.1 billion economic impact for the state—there is no room for mistaken legal interruptions. The PUC should be commended for making the right decision for the state and for the local communities and such future interruptions should be mitigated.
On Monday the Supreme Court decided to uphold a May 2017 ruling by a three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court and declined to review the challenge to Sunoco Inc.’s ability to use eminent domain. This decision, which reinforces a ruling in favor of the company, is merely one more in a long line finding in favor of Sunoco Pipeline, and more specifically, the Mariner East project.
While opponents of the infrastructure project have sought to derail its progress at every turn, the courts have repeatedly found in favor of Sunoco Pipeline, to the benefit of the state of Pennsylvania. Ultimately, this pipeline project will have a huge impact on the Commonwealth, including thousands of jobs for local Pennsylvanians and a $9.1 billion economic impact. Each decisive legal victory pushes back on infrastructure opponents who are trying to use the courts to halt a legally permitted project and increases the possibility that Pennsylvania will be able to gain the full benefit of energy development while keeping communities safe. They further underscore that this project is not only an economically beneficial one to the state, but also a project that stands on sound legal footing.
The Supreme Court’s decision was a good one and will hopefully end the legal and regulatory rigmarole that the opposition is using in fruitless attempts to stall the project.
The Delaware County Council is not proceeding with a risk assessment study on the Mariner East pipeline after finding themselves deadlocked late last week. With two votes on either side of the issue, the risk assessment, which was initially meant to be a look at all pipeline routes in Delaware County, but ultimately shifted to be narrowly focused exclusively on Mariner East, will not advance.
County Councilman Colleen Morrone, who voted against approving the study, stated: “My concern … is that this proposal that is now in front of us has significantly changed from the scope of the RFP that we approved for release. I feel my responsibility is to represent all of the residents in Delaware County. It’s about doing the right thing for all of the residents in Delaware County.”
Councilman Morrone’s vote is certainly in the best interest of not just the residents of Delaware County, but Pennsylvanians at large. Advancing a risk assessment that the Public Utility Commission has already stated likely violates Pennsylvania law would be not just illegal, but also duplicative and costly. The existing regulatory system has proven successful at every juncture of the process and can be trusted to catch any potential problems that could arise. Further, the cost burden of this unnecessary duplication would fall on taxpayers. Instead of further stalling this economically beneficial project, people should encourage efficient construction so that the project can be completed in a safe and timely manner.
Administrative Law Judge Barnes’ decision to grant Senator Andy Dinniman’s petition late last week is unfortunate and ultimately not in the best interest of the Pennsylvanians that the Senator was elected to serve.
Moreover, because the Senator does not live within the jurisdiction of the pipeline, his standing is legally flimsy at best. Permitting Senator Dinniman’s complaint to be considered and further, granting his request, creates a dangerous precedent where any opponent to a legally permitted project will feel emboldened to file complaints solely to slow the process.
Given the tremendous economic impact that the Mariner East project will have on the Commonwealth, including thousands of jobs for local Pennsylvanians and a $9.1 billion economic impact for the state, it is critical that operations be permitted to resume on Mariner East 1, 2, and 2X in the West Whiteland Township as soon as possible.