Food & Water Watch Fear-mongers International Implications of ME2

The Mariner East 2 pipeline spreads benefits across Pennsylvanian economic and energy indicators. As has been their tune in recent months, Food & Water Watch is back at exacerbating local concerns into transnational dialogue – with a loose application of the facts at hand.

Wenonah Hauter, the founder and executive director of Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action Fund, recently posted a piece to In These Times asserting that the main use of the Mariner East 2 pipeline will be to “transport highly volatile liquids that will mostly be shipped overseas to be turned into plastics by a giant chemical corporation”.

First of all, the Mariner East projects were designed from the start to transport propane, ethane, and other petroleum products from the Marcellus shale formations to markets in Pennsylvania and beyond. This infrastructure furthermore contributes to the revitalization of the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex as a hub of natural gas liquids in the Northeast. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, “construction of the pipeline at the Marcus Hook terminal would provide an impetus for new domestic markets to emerge. Its pipeline will also deliver ethane as a supplemental fuel to a new power plant under construction in Cambria County.” Additionally, with the offtake agreement with CPV Fairview, the infrastructure provides a local artery to the Mariner East projects for ethane. According to The Tribune-Democrat, “the latest collaboration between Sunoco, CPV and local leadership is a perfect example of how local support can encourage corporations to combine their strengths to create the most efficient ventures, give back to local communities and create a sustainable future for Pennsylvanians.”

Second of all, the economic development opportunities spurred by this infrastructure development has created jobs with family-sustaining wages in Pennsylvania, with benefits already being realized across townships. Our communities need these pipelines to capitalize on our local energy reserves, and Mike Butler of the Consumer Energy Alliance explain that projects like the Mariner East 2 pipeline “has helped to create over 30,000 jobs and will generate approximately $1 million in tax revenue for the commonwealth.”

As Pennsylvanians already know, energy infrastructure projects are bringing jobs and economic development across our state. Don’t be fooled by out-of-state opinions trying to link this project to an international fight. This pipeline is bringing benefits to Pennsylvania, and  – as Mike Butler put it – “we must remain committed to both preserving our environment and building out the necessary infrastructure so that Pennsylvanians can continue to reap these benefits for generations to come.”

West Chester Resident Mischaracterizes Sunoco Safety Standards

A recent LTE in The Daily Local by West Chester resident Melissa DiBernadino asserted that “Sunoco assurances don’t satisfy safety issues”. This claim mischaracterizes the safety standards throughout the company’s energy infrastructure developments, and the extensive oversight of the Mariner East 2 pipeline (ME2).

The piece details that “There are key points to be made and questions to be answered about “safety” claims made by Sunoco that need to be brought to the attention of our leaders who took an oath to protect the health, safety & welfare of Pennsylvanians.”

Here are a couple “key points” that were left out of Ms. DiBernadino’s piece:

Energy infrastructure projects are designed to benefit local communities, and to spread energy connectivity along the line. The Mariner East 2 pipeline presents real benefits to come to West Chester and across the state, and its “key points” underscore the premium placed on safety throughout.


What is Bentonite?
Bentonite is a clay generated frequently from the alteration of volcanic ash, most commonly found in the United States and China.

Bentonite Is Safe?
Bentonite has a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) rating from the FDA, which stated that:

“There is no evidence in the available information on bentonite that demonstrates or suggests reasonable grounds to suspect, a hazard to the public when it is used in the manner now practiced or that might reasonably be expected in the future.”

Bentonite is Safe?
According to the CDC, Bentonite does not pose physical or chemical dangers to those exposed.

No adverse effect expected.”

How Long has Bentonite Been Used?
Since at least 1890, Bentonite has been used for a clay, though uses are thought to extend back much farther into history.

What is Bentonite Used For?
Bentonite has an array of uses, from removing impurities in beer, wine, and mineral water, to making paper.

It’s also an ingredient in a number of skincare and personal hygiene products – including sunscreen, moisturizer, and toothpaste. Check out the full list of products here.

A 2014 study available on the National Institute of Health website concludes that infusing gauze with bentonite has a significant advantage over the control group in coagulating wounds.

Bentonite’s Use in Farming?
It’s used as an animal feed supplement, often in the process of making animal feed pellets. It’s also used as an ion exchanger to improve soil conditions, acting as a kind of fertilizer for crops.

Bentonite is Used to Make Paper?
Yes, Bentonite is crucial to paper making, where it’s used to absorb wood resin that can obstruct the machines, to improve the efficiency of conversion from pulp into paper, and to improve the overall quality of paper.

How is Bentonite Used for Energy Infrastructure Development?
Bentonite is also used as a mud constituent for oil and water well drilling. It’s primarily used to seal borehole walls, and to lubricate the cutting head.

Fringe blog highlights flawed report

The Middletown Township hired Accufacts in September to do a quantitative risk assessment on the Mariner East 2 Pipeline. According to The Delaware County Daily Times, the agreement followed a similar agreement in February with Quest Consultants, who were concurrently hired by the anti-pipeline group Middletown Coalition for Community Safety (MCCS) to complete an independent study. The piece detailed that “The contract was subsequently terminated due to a potential conflict of interest, as neither the firm nor the coalition made the township aware of the other study”.

The MCCS analysis pushed forth a false narrative of inflammatory, anti-infrastructure assertions, and has been used as a central talking point for anti-pipeline groups. Most recently, the fringe blogger “dragonpipe diary” touted the study as the “only quantitative risk analysis” of the Mariner East 2 pipeline. Not only does this assertion ignore the recent Accufacts and Econsult analyses, but it also slants the study as a case study that other townships should follow. According to Marcellus Drilling News,

“The Middletown Coalition was antsy, they didn’t want to wait for the town study to be completed, and they couldn’t risk a truly independent study finding the pipeline will be safe. So the Coalition moved ahead, no doubt using money from Big Green organizations to produce a report titled “Hazard Calculations for the Mariner East II Pipeline” (full copy below). The Coalition asked Quest Consultants, an Oklahoma-based firm, to evaluate what would happen IF a bunch of unlikely events were to happen. The report concludes: “IF the pipe were to rupture in Middletown Township, and IF the pipeline were operating at 1,500 psi while transporting ethane, and IF the release were oriented near to horizontal in the direction of the wind, and IF there are few obstructions to vapor cloud dispersion, and IF the weather conditions were 5 mph winds and stable atmosphere, the flammable vapor cloud could extend up to 1,800 feet from the pipeline.” The huge, gaping omission, the question the report does not address, is this: How likely is it that any or all of those things would actually happen? Our answer: near zero percent. In other words, the report just released by the Middletown Coalition proves that ME2 is safe!”

These fringe blog posts utilize flawed calculations to further pre-set opinions based on ideology rather than fact.

Sunoco Pipeline Provides Specialty Training in Pipeline Safety

Sunoco Pipeline has provided extensive training sessions in pipeline safety across the route of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Pennsylvania. According to Vista, “Sunoco Pipeline recently completed the Mariner Emergency Responder Outreach (MERO) program for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project. MERO has hosted specialized training sessions this year for more than 750 first responders in communities where Sunoco Pipeline’s Mariner East system will operate.”

The piece details that the MERO program “has trained approximately 2,350 firefighters, police officers, emergency medical service providers, municipal emergency management officials, and other public safety personnel” since 2013. The project’s sustained commitment to safety and system integrity is supported by Gregory Noll, an emergency planning and response consultant who conducted these sessions with the Mariner East pipelines. According to Noll, “A big part of emergency response, especially in the pipeline industry, is having a pre-existing relationship with emergency responders at the local level”.

These MERO sessions exemplify efforts made across energy projects in Pennsylvania to work with local communities and emergency responders to develop local energy infrastructure to the greatest benefit of surrounding communities.

EIA Report Underscores Appalachian Natural Gas Wealth

The Marcellus and Utica shale formations have catalyzed regional energy connectivity and economic development across Appalachia.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration released a report today detailing how “Shale gas production in the Appalachia region has increased rapidly since 2012, driving an overall increase in U.S. natural gas production.” The report stresses that “Drilling wells in the Appalachia region has become very productive. The average monthly natural gas production per rig for new wells in the Appalachia region increased by 10.8 million cubic feet per day since January 2012. EIA attributes this increase to efficiency improvements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the region, which include faster drilling, longer laterals, advancements in technology, and better targeting of wells.”

According to former U.S. Congressman from Louisiana Charlie Melacon, “The Appalachian Basin is the fastest-growing and the most incremental source of domestic natural gas supply, but if the gas cannot get to market then it can only have so much impact on the surrounding region.” He argues further that “With the breadth of shale developments over the last two decades, it is clear that we need to expand energy infrastructure away from being centralized on the Gulf Coast and to regionalize the development closer to Appalachian sectors, with Pennsylvania now the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas.”

Energy infrastructure projects across the region are bolstering regional capacity to benefit from this energy wealth. Energy Transfer Partners, Shell and Williams have made important steps towards revitalizing local energy infrastructure development and have positioned the region as a necessary resource for national energy reserves.

Fringe Bloggers Spread Misconceptions on Pipeline Oversight

Throughout energy infrastructure developments, professional protestors and fringe activist bloggers have spread misconceptions about pipeline construction and linked regulatory oversight. Most recently, bloggers have asserted that given incidents in Ohio leading the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pause pipeline construction, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) should follow suit. Energy oversight does not work like this. Assertions of arbitrary delays to construction based on regional incidents fundamentally misunderstand distinctions between the organizations in question – and between the conditions surrounding the respective pipelines.

Energy Infrastructure is Key to Pa. Economic Growth

The Marcellus Shale Coalition recently posted a blog detailing how energy infrastructure in Pennsylvania impacted local economic growth and environmental progress. The piece highlighted the misinformation spread through two recent reports put out by the NRDC and the Clean Air Task Force; explaining that “Both the NRDC and Clean Air Task Force, backed by deep-pocketed, anti-natural gas funders like the Heinz Endowments, support banning American energy development and have filed legal challenges to critical energy infrastructure projects across the Commonwealth. Banning safe, responsible energy development would be devastating, costing Pennsylvania’s economy 466,000 jobs and increasing energy costs by $3,500 annually, according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce analysis.”

The piece countered the misinformation and chronicled examples of the benefits of energy infrastructure in Pennsylvania and across the country:

  • “84% of Pennsylvania voters support increasing energy development in the U.S., including 85% of environmentalists, according to a National Association of Manufacturers’ surveyreleased last year.”
  • “Over the past decade, technology and innovation have led to a dramatic increase in our energy resources. This abundant supply of energy is vital to America’s —and Virginia’s — economy. But without the necessary infrastructure, we can’t take advantage of these resources.” (Roanoke Times)
  • “Pipelines are designed to safeguard the environment. As a structure that is almost totally buried underground, they are designed with multiple layers of safety features working together to mitigate impact to the environment and protect sensitive environmental areas. These safety features utilize smart inspection technology and on-sight inspections to ensure system integrity.” (Patriot News)

U.S. Justice Department to Prosecute for Pipeline Damage

Energy infrastructure projects in Pennsylvania and across the country have been confronted by anti-infrastructure protestors opposing development through any means necessary. These efforts have ranged from incidents of eco-terrorism, sabotage and vandalism, collectively putting ideological causes over public safety concerns.

In Pennsylvania alone, nearly thirty protesters have been arrested protesting the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline under the charge of “defiant protesting” after hindering construction to ensure along the pipeline route. Similarly, the Gerhart family and professional protestors have been living in trees along the route of the Mariner East Pipeline for several months now in an effort to block construction on their property, against direct court orders.

Last month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers asked the Department of Justice to extend the domestic terrorism law to connect to protests aimed at shutting down pipelines, in broad recognition of the risks posed to the surrounding communities and environment. The letter details that “When an individual burns a hole through a pipeline currently in operation, there is a high probability this could ignite the contents, killing not only the perpetrator but other innocent victims. It also has the potential to cause property and environmental damage, as well as disrupt services to communities and consumers.”

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice pledged to prosecute such protesters who damage energy infrastructure projects. According to Reuters, “The DOJ said it was committed to vigorously prosecuting those who damage “critical energy infrastructure in violation of federal law”, maintaining that “Attempts to “damage or shut down” pipelines deprive communities of services and can put lives at risk, cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and threaten the environment”.

Efforts to damage energy infrastructure galvanize efforts to go against the rule of law to hinder pipeline projects and constitute real threats to community safety. The Department of Justice has recognized the gravity of this trend and the hypocrisy of those who damage pipelines in the name of environmental conservation.

These Are No Longer Local Fights

Looking at local opposition efforts to the Mariner East 2 pipeline, fragmented township-level protests have become increasingly coordinated through efforts by national groups, like Food & Water Watch.

In the November 7 local municipal elections, The Daily Local News reported that “grassroots campaigning helped to put candidates over the top in West Goshen and Uwchlan Townships, according to local candidates and supporters.” The Philadelphia Inquirer further detailed that “Four Democrats, supported by the political arm of a national environmental group, won races for township supervisor in Uwchlan and West Goshen, which are bisected by the Mariner East system that conveys natural-gas liquids to Sunoco’s terminal in Marcus Hook.”

Tom Shepstone asserted in a Natural Gas Now piece that these activities tie into a larger narrative of Food and Water Watch conning local taxpayers, highlighting how “Sam Bernhardt, senior organizer with Food & Water Action, said his organization spent  about $40,000 to provide organizers and to mail brochures to voters in the two townships. The effort was buttressed by a door-to-door campaign targeting every house within 1,000 feet of the pipeline route.” Food & Water Watch even endorsed candidates, which is not permissible under their 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 tax filing status.

This engagement with Food & Water Watch on the Mariner East projects shifts local township narratives from local safety concerns to nationalized anti-infrastructure political agendas. The energy infrastructure projects at hand go above-and-beyond to meet township and federal standards for safety. The townships in question need to be careful to not get subsumed under anti-progress national agendas, to the detriment of local concerns.