Pay Attention to Pipeline Capacity

A recent Wall Street Journal article outlined what is becoming an increasingly large problem in the oil and gas industry: pipeline capacity. Unprecedented access to natural resources has led to all-time highs in American production and a decreasing dependence on foreign energy. This boom has been heralded by many as an American energy renaissance, and rightly so.

In spite of the abundant resources, however, problems remain. Chief among them, how to best transport the oil and gas. Without reliable and plentiful pipelines to move the natural resources from point A to point B, producers will face increased bottlenecks and access to the oil and gas will be for naught.

The WSJ article is a timely reminder that in order to maximize America’s natural resources and continue towards energy independence, we must continue to invest in our infrastructure. By working to mitigate pipeline capacity issues before they become dire, we can take advantage of the oil and gas that our country has to offer and continue to be a world leader in the energy sector.

Pipeline Opposition Group Claims Responsibility for Damage to Equipment

News broke this week that deliberate damage to two pieces of heavy equipment being used to build the Mariner East 2 pipeline was inflicted by anti-pipeline group Philly Anti-Capitalist. The group, a known affiliate of Camp White Pine, claimed responsibility for the damage in a brazen Earth First Journal post which bragged about “cutting their hoses and electrical wires, cutting off valve stems to deflate the tires, introducing sand into their systems, putting potatoes in the exhaust pipes, using contact cement to close off the machines’ panels and fuel tanks, and a variety of other mischievous improvised sabotage techniques.” In addition to the recent damage caused by Philly Anti-Capitalist, Camp White Pine is “calling for direct actions, banner drops, demonstrations, and more!”

Actions like this are not only illegal, but ultimately harmful to Pennsylvanians and specifically to the communities that will benefit from Mariner East 2. The pipeline, which has created 2,500 jobs during the construction phase alone, is estimated to have a $9 billion financial impact in the Keystone State once it is complete. Delays and stall tactics from opposition groups, legal or otherwise, are only obstructing the benefits that will come from an operational pipeline.

Throughout the process of planning and building the Mariner East 2 pipeline, Sunoco has sought the input and approval of the communities in the area. The company has held town halls, met with community members, and worked to make the process as seamless as possible. In spite of this, there are still groups who oppose the pipeline’s construction. But regardless of feelings on the matter, the law is the law. Philly Anti-Capitalist should be held accountable for their actions, and groups such as Camp White Pine should stop calling for illegal activities.

Setting the Record Straight on Horizontal Directional Drilling

Much has been written about horizontal directional drilling (HDD), including a piece this week in Philly.com. However, frequently missing from the conversation is the fact that HDD is widely acknowledged as an industry best practice and the safest means of construction.

HDD is environmentally sensitive and causes minimal impact on the surrounding area. The three step process—consisting of drilling a small hole, widening the hole slightly, and pulling the pipe through the hole—helps to mitigate potential environmental impacts and to protect environmentally delicate areas, counter to what many opponents suggest.

Also of note, HDD is used across a range of industries for infrastructure installation, including everything from telecommunications cables to water pipes.

In any debate, it’s important to have the right information and in this case, the facts are clear: HDD is the safest and least disruptive means of construction.

Another Frivolous Lawsuit Denied

As reported by the Delaware County Daily Times earlier this week, “the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania rejected an appeal from six Middletown residents seeking the ability to enforce a local ordinance against Sunoco in the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.” The court’s decision is merely the latest in a string of decisions which have found in favor of the Mariner East 2 project and the ruling is further indication that such lawsuits are merely distractions intended to stop a project that is both necessary and beneficial for Pennsylvania.

Further, the decision underscores that the project was legally permitted and has maintained the highest safely standards throughout the building process. The safety of the communities and the environment is of the utmost importance, and this week’s court ruling further underscores that Sunoco has taken every possible precautionary step to ensure the well being of both.

It’s Time To Get The Facts Straight On Horizontal Directional Drilling

Pipeline opponents once again had an opportunity to share their opposition to increased pipeline infrastructure at a joint senate hearing in Harrisburg, PA on Tuesday. The hearing, held by the state senate Environmental Resources and Energy and the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure committees, listened to ideological fringe groups for two hours about the lack of safety involved in pipeline construction. Consistent with recent actions by these opponents, a great deal of misinformation was shared.

The most egregious piece of information being inaccurately and continuously shared is that Horizontal Direction Drilling (HDD) is not a tested construction practice. In fact, as trained geologist and energy infrastructure expert, Bill Godsey says, HDD is an industry best practice:

“This is a technique of installing pipe and materials by drilling under existing structure instead of cutting through them with an open-cut, trench. The method is widely considered an industry best-practice, specifically for protecting the integrity of sensitive geographies, like aquifers and high water tables.”

Drilling mud or clay is used to help lubricate and cool the drill so it does not overheat. But the mud is not harmful, it is simply a mixture of water and non-toxic bentonite clay that has no harmful environmental impact. In fact, bentonite is approved by the FDA and a common component of many household items such as lipstick and sunscreen.

Throughout the construction process fluids can escape, what’s known as an “inadvertent return.” The process, though not “uncommon,” usually does not pose any environmental hazards. Wide-spread myths have caused panic over fluids escaping, resulting in construction halts that cost time, money, and actually could increase the risk of an environmental disruption.

Godsey writes: “Ultimately, HDDs remain the industry standard for protecting environmental resources. A pipeline company should not be overly punished because it sought to employ a more environmentally friendly approach to building a pipeline project.”

HDDs are the best practice for installing pipelines. The total disregard for facts must not keep Pennsylvania from developing needed energy infrastructure.

FracTracker Continues to Spread Misinformation

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.

HDD is More Environmentally Sensitive for Installing Pipelines in Sensitive Terrain

Even though it is environmentally sensitive, horizontal directional drilling (HDD) has come under fire. However what fails to be discussed is exactly what the practice entails. No matter the negative messaging being pushed by anti-development activists, it is an important tool and often the best way to install new infrastructure such as energy and water pipelines as well as telecom cables below sensitive terrain.

HDD is a steerable, trenchless process of installing pipelines underground. It involves three stages; first a small hole is drilled directionally along the pre-planned path, next the hole is widened slightly to install the pipeline, and finally the pipeline is installed by pulling the pipe back through the hole.

The process helps to mitigate potential environmental impacts and to protect environmentally sensitive areas. For Mariner East 2, and particularly the 307 miles of the project in Pennsylvania, less than half an acre of wetlands require mitigation. Construction teams are required to enhance five more in wetland areas elsewhere for every square foot of those wetlands along the path. That equals more than 2 acres.

It’s also good to note that HDD is not just used for energy pipeline infrastructure, but is also used across a wide variety of infrastructure projects like telecommunication cables to water pipes.

Its minimal impact on surrounding environment proves that HDD is the best practice to install such crucial infrastructure.

Watch the video below to learn more about what horizontal directional drilling.

Pipeline Opponents have been Heard – Now Time to Build ME2

Pipelines in Pennsylvania are under consistent attack by the same opponents that have been in search of any argument possible to voice opposition to much-needed infrastructure development in Pennsylvania.

The list of projects is long – PennEast, Atlantic Sunrise, Constitution, Adelphia, and Mariner East. What they can’t argue against is the incredible economic impacts that these projects will have for the commonwealth. Mariner East 2 was recently found to be providing a $9.1 billion positive benefit for the Pennsylvania economy while Atlantic Sunrise will have a $1.6 billion economic impact. In addition to these figures are the thousands of jobs these projects provide and the fact that pipelines ensure the safe delivery of energy products to consumers according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Local papers are filled with opinion pieces and letters to the editor by people who claim they are in favor of safety, but that could not be further from the truth. In reality these infrastructure opponents are just ideological fringe activists opposed to development – nimbyism at its height. Opposition has attended meetings and formal hearings on the Mariner East project since it was proposed in 2014. They have had ample opportunity to share their opposition and back it up with facts. Opponents of this project have been heard and the project was legally permitted after unprecedented environmental review.

Unfortunately, these groups continue to use the courts in a last-ditch attempt to tie up the project. Just recently, the Commonwealth Court, yet again, ruled in favor of Mariner East in a lawsuit filed by environmental activists. The following day, similar advocates filed a new lawsuit in another attempt to bog down our courts. To date, the courts have been almost entirely consistent in upholding the letter of law by throwing out these frivolous lawsuits.

This project will provide support to the development of the Marcellus and Utica Shale by delivering product to consumers in the safest way possible, while increasing access to affordable, clean-burning natural gas products for local consumers. The activists have had their say. Now it is time to get the project done in order for Mariner East to deliver the countless positive benefits is promises for all Pennsylvanians.

Infrastructure Opponents Create Increased Reliance on Russia

With increased development of the Marcellus and Utica Shale in western Pennsylvania, debate about the need for pipeline infrastructure has been ongoing. On one side are anti-development activists who focus on fringe ideological views without a basic understanding of the ongoing need for increased domestic energy production. The Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance believes that the Marcellus and Utica Shale development is a tremendous opportunity for Pennsylvania as well as domestic energy consumers, but these benefits can only come available through expanded pipeline infrastructure. In other words, unless we can safely transport the resources to consumers, Pennsylvania cannot receive the full benefit.

Recent controversy about the import of Russian natural gas in New England is just the latest proof that more pipeline infrastructure is needed. According to Bloomberg, the Russian gas was being imported because “New England is paying a hefty premium for supplies as pipeline capacity limits flows of cheap shale gas from other parts of the country in the peak demand season.”

Because the Northeast lacks the necessary pipeline capacity to meet regional demand, they have been left with no choice but to purchase much-needed energy from the Russians – who are currently under intense scrutiny for meddling in the 2016 election. The bottom line is that by advocating against necessary pipeline infrastructure, pipeline opponents are only advocating on behalf of Russian economic interests.

The U.S. is on a path to become the world’s largest producer of natural gas. Without the necessary pipeline infrastructure that can deliver these resources to consumers safely, we will never be self-reliant for the energy we need.

Increased pipeline infrastructure development is the answer. Pipelines are the safest, most efficient way to transport energy from point A to point B and increased development is necessary to ensure the safe transport of these products and become less reliant on foreign sources. Pipeline opponents will continue digging for any argument they can find to halt these projects, but in the end, infrastructure opponents are only advocating for increased reliance on Russia to meet America’s energy demand.