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.

Pipeline Opponents Property Value Not Impacted

With energy resources providing such a positive impact on Pennsylvania’s, opponents of this economic boom in Pennsylvania claim that property values will be negatively impacted, which is just one of many misstatements. In fact, studies and economists say that at worst, property values would be unchanged.

According to a study by Integra Realty Resource (IRR) proximity to a pipeline does not hold a statistically meaningful impact on a home’s overall value or its probability of sale, looking at home sales near natural gas pipelines in four different states across the country. In fact, they concluded that “there was no indication that the presence of a natural gas pipeline would hinder a buyer’s ability to acquire property insurance. They also said that there was no indication that premiums paid for insurance policies would increase because of the proximity to a natural gas pipeline.”

Regular pipeline infrastructure critic Seth Kovnat, an organizer for the Middletown Coalition, a constant opponent of energy infrastructure, is proof that this is the case. While he has been chief among those disseminating fear and misinformation about pipelines, his home recently sold in the Media, Pennsylvania area, generating a nearly 50-percent profit, despite a mere $23,000 investment in the home.

Kevin Gillen, a Philadelphia economist would actually argue that the pipelines are much more beneficial to the local economy than harmful.

“Pipeline opponents would have you falsely believe that constructing new infrastructure capacity such as pipelines is harmful to both the environment and individual households. But it is the failure to construct new capacity that does true harm,” Gillen says. “Pipeline transportation is not only more economically beneficial and efficient than alternative forms, it is also the healthier and more responsible choice as well.”

Pennsylvania has great opportunity to fully benefit from the countless positives that homegrown energy resources and the safe transport of those resources can provide. Additional infrastructure will allow greater transportation from western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex in southeastern Pennsylvania. This industry is generating immense economic benefit for the state through jobs and increased access to homegrown, affordable energy resources. In fact a recent study showed that the Mariner East project will contribute $9.1 billion to the Pennsylvania economy and create over 57,000 jobs.

While Seth Kovnat is not going to admit that safe pipeline infrastructure is a positive thing for southeastern Pennsylvania, selling his home for nearly 150-percent of what he paid for it is quite a profitable transaction. At the very least, despite his constant concerns about pipeline infrastructure, Mariner East did not have a negative impact on his property value.

READ: PUC Chair’s Letter To Governor Wolf

The Honorable Tom Wolf
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
508 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120

Dear Governor Wolf:

Thank you for your interest in the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s oversight of Sunoco Pipeline L.P. and its Mariner East 2 project. On behalf of the Commission, we appreciate this opportunity to describe our oversight and respond to the suggestion that the commission conduct a “risk assessment” of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

By way of background, Sunoco is the product of the mergers and acquisitions of two pipeline companies that were originally certificated by the Pennsylvania Public Service Commission in the early 1930’s to transport petroleum and refined petroleum products. The Public Utility Code allows common carrier pipelines under the definition of “public utility” which includes “[t]ransporting or conveying natural or artificial gas, crude oil, gasoline, or petroleum products, materials for refrigeration, or oxygen or nitrogen, or other fluid substance, by pipeline or conduit, for the public for compensation.” 66Pa, C.S. $ 102, see “public utility” subsection (1)(v). Common carrier pipelines are different from distribution utilities that serve within a geographic area.

The Commission places a keen focus on the common carrier pipeline public utilities under our jurisdiction through the exercise of our general administrative authority to ensure that these public utilities furnish and maintain adequate, efficient, safe, and reasonable service and facilities. The Pipeline Safety Section, within the Commission’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement, works in coordination with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to enforce all applicable safety regulations. The assessment of risk is the basic principle underlying the federal pipeline safety laws. PHMSA’s regulations require pipeline operators such as Sunoco to undertake continual integrity assessments of their pipelines. Among the factors the operator must consider are previous integrity assessments, the history of the pipeline, the product transported and the existing and projected activities around the pipeline. See 49 CFR $ 195.452(e). PHMSA regulations refer to this as “Pipeline Integrity Management’ The Commission and PHMSA review Sunoco’s Pipeline Integrity Management program on at least an annual basis.

The Commission’s Pipeline Safety Section has devoted a significant portion of its resources over the past several years to Sunoco and its Mariner East project. The Pipeline Safety Section spent 76 inspection days during 2017 on the Mariner East project, more inspection days than on any other pipeline. Our Pipeline Safety inspectors will maintain this rigorous inspection program of Sunoco’s Mariner East project throughout construction, conducting inspections on an at least weekly basis. The Commission will continue to monitor and inspect Mariner 2 after construction is completed consistent with our duties overseeing Pennsylvania’s pipeline utilities and as a state agent for PHMSA charged with enforcing the federal pipeline safety laws. Included in Sunoco’s federal regulatory obligations is the administration of a written public awareness program. These programs require, among other items, the education of the public and appropriate governmental organizations of “the possible hazards associated with unintended releases” from a hazardous liquids pipeline and notifying affected municipalities, school districts, businesses and residents of pipeline facility locations.” See 49 CFR $ 195.442.

The Pipeline Safety Section’s most recent inspection of Sunoco’s public awareness program for Mariner East on November 7 ,2016 did not disclose any deficiencies.

The Commission also understands that, in20l7, Sunoco sent Public Awareness Program mailings to approximately 66,000 people – this includes property owners within l/86 of a mile of a Sunoco pipeline, public officials, emergency responders, schools and excavating companies. In addition Sunoco conducted training for over 2,000 emergency responders and public officials over 16 meetings in20l7. Additionally, through review of Sunoco’s public awareness program, the Commission is aware that Sunoco is working with county emergency management agencies (EMAs) to share emergency preparedness information about its Mariner East pipelines with all schools within ½ mile of Mariner.

To the extent some members of the community are asking the state to conduct a public risk assessment of natural gas liquid (NGL) transportation pipelines, such a request raises some difficult issues. First Pennsylvania law requires all state employees and agencies to strictly protect any confidential security information of public utilities. See Act 156 of 2006 (the Public Utility Confidential Security Information Disclosure Protection Act). Thus, publication of such a risk assessment is likely prohibited by state law. Second, both federal and state law expressly permit the transportation of NGLs by pipeline. While there are a handful of ongoing court challenges involving the Mariner East project, all existing court decisions have found the Commission correctly recognized there was a public need for natural gas liquids transportation by Sunoco. If the public wishes to challenge a decision of the Commission regarding the Mariner East project, we have been and will continue to afford due process to any member of the public who raises issues pertaining to the service provided by jurisdictional public utilities.

The Commission recognizes the risks present in the transportation of NGLs by pipeline. The Commission will continue to exercise our administrative authority as defined by state and federal law to ensure that Mariner East continues to furnish and maintain adequate, efficient, safe, and reasonable service and facilities as part of our ongoing oversight of the safety and operations of Sunoco and its hazardous liquids pipeline system. If the Commission’s pipeline Safety Section discovers any issues which raise concerns about the safe operation of any pipeline within our jurisdiction, rest assured that the Commission will take prompt and effective action to protect the public.

Very truly yours,

Gladys M. Brown


Risk Assessment Would Be Duplicative

With each passing day, another pipeline opponent seems to wake up and proclaim themselves an industry expert on pipeline construction and operations. These past few days, if you didn’t know any better, one would think that Tom Casey is some kind of an engineer with a deep background in pipeline regulations and expertise in qualitative risk.

Instead, he is just a Pennsylvania resident who opposes pipeline infrastructure without the above expertise.

Casey appears to be running an analysis of the risks associated with the Mariner East pipelines. He has begun asking folks to take a survey for what he calls the “Citizens Risk Assessment” team.

Citizen engagement is always encouraged, but these activities go beyond mere engagement. Pipeline opponents, like Tom Casey, have opposed the Mariner East projects since they were first proposed. Yet now they are now claiming they oppose these projects because of the risks posed to the local community. Unless citizens like Mr. Casey purchased their home and moved into their community over 100 years ago, pipelines like Mariner East have been operating safely beneath their feet since before they moved in.

Pipelines are the safest mode to transport energy resources, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. They are safer than transporting resources by truck on our roadways or by train through our railways, which are the alternative methods of transportation to expanded pipeline infrastructure like Mariner East.

Opponents want the public to believe that Mariner East is the first pipeline of its kind, but there are other pipelines carrying products similar to the propane, ethane, and butane that Mariner East will carry already in operation today. And some of them operate under schools, libraries and other high-traffic areas.

Proposals for a risk assessment, which is being pushed for by pipeline opponents, are nothing more than duplicative of regulations that are already in place. The risks associated with proposed pipelines like Mariner East are built into the oversight and regulations, which is much of the reason why Mariner East has received unprecedented regulatory review. It is also important to ask what an additional risk assessment would impact. The project is already permitted, and local emergency responders already receive the highest level of training and are prepared in case any type of a public safety emergency were to occur. Similarly, there is a chance that airplanes can crash, but, because of the risk associated with them, they are highly regulated and people rarely think twice before boarding a plane.

Again, Mariner East is not the first pipeline to run through southeast Pennsylvania. It’s also not the first of its kind, which seems to be the pipeline opponent’s justification for many of their arguments. Pipeline opponents like Tom Casey are digging for anything they can find to instill a maximum amount of fear in the public without any acknowledgement of the facts. This is why individuals who only oppose infrastructure projects like Mariner East have no business running a risk assessment –  because he doesn’t even have the experience to know where to begin.

ME2 Construction Set To Get Back Underway

For 36 days, a vital part of Pennsylvania’s infrastructure has been stuck in neutral, unable to help our workers or benefit our economy. Since the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a halt to construction along the Mariner East 2 Pipeline on January 3rd of this year, thousands of workers have been without work, a project that will impact Pennsylvania’s economy to the tune of $9.1 billion has stood pat, and our state has quietly suffered.

Thankfully, the DEP announced this morning that it “has lifted the order suspending DEP-permitted operations” after receiving a revised Operations Plan from Sunoco Pipeline. The DEP also announced “that it has issued a $12.6 million civil penalty to Sunoco Pipeline, LLP (Sunoco) for permit violations” related to the project.

Within the revised Operations Plan, Sunoco Pipeline adds “additional measures and controls Sunoco will put in place to ensure that all permit conditions will be followed at all times moving forward, as well as additional measures and controls that Sunoco will implement to minimize inadvertent returns and water supply incidents,” which will further ensure that the 350-mile pipeline is constructed safely and efficiently, placing a premium on minimizing the environmental impact.

As DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement,

“Since the permit suspension over a month ago, Sunoco has demonstrated that it has taken steps to ensure the company will conduct the remaining pipeline construction activities in accordance with the law and permit conditions, and will be allowed to resume. DEP will be monitoring activities closely to ensure that Sunoco is meeting the terms of this agreement and its permits.”

With more than 90% of the mainline pipeline construction complete, it’s exciting to see this project getting back on track. Throughout the construction process, nearly 60,000 workers will be employed, impacting communities from Washington to Delaware county. Delaying the project was harming Pennsylvanians, harming our infrastructure, and harming our unique position in the energy world.

We should expect construction to begin in earnest within the next few weeks, and it’s about time Pennsylvania’s union members are able to get back to work. This is an incredible step not only for Pennsylvania’s workers and economy, but the country as a whole. The Mariner East 2 pipeline is a vital part of our nation’s infrastructure expansion, and with the DEP’s greenlight this morning we’re set to see the benefits sooner rather than later.

Again, Anti-Pipeline Activists Confuse Facts with Fiction

In a recent letter written to the Delco Times, Eric Friedman from Thornbury needed just four words to show how little he regards the truth about the Mariner East pipeline – a habit consistently shown from anti-pipeline activists attempting to halt Pennsylvania’s pipeline infrastructure development. Friedman writes that the process of constructing Mariner East 2 has occurred “in [a] reckless rush.” It’s impossible to say if Friedman is ignorant or apathetic to the truth, but it’s clear that he cares little for the fact that the project has gone through years of review from countless oversight bodies, local and state governments and has exceeded safety requirements.

Friedman goes on to make poorly informed claims based off of cherry picked studies that again omit reality. He chooses instead to ignore the most recent data on the projects because they do not fit his narrow worldview and narrative. Nowhere does he mention that economic estimates have doubled in recent, with a new expected economic impact of $9.1 billion for Pennsylvania’s economy.

The projects will also create and support nearly 60,000 jobs during the construction process, while supporting up to 530 jobs with earnings between $30 and $45 million. Add in that the Mariner East projects will produce between $140 and $210 million in annual economic impacts, and the picture begins to fill out. Friedman chooses to include the points that he does because telling the truth would undermine his entire argument.

Friedman’s letter is just the latest in a long string of ideologically tilted arguments intended to stunt the development of Pennsylvania’s much-needed infrastructure. Freidman and anti-pipeline advocates that occupy the fringes of the ideological spectrum attempt to discredit these important projects by omitting the truth and amplifying only what suits them. A well informed debate is the most important thing when it comes to any divided issue, but time and time again opposition groups have shown how little they care for facts and the truth when it comes to Pennsylvania’s infrastructure.

It’s dangerous to propagate ideological views as the truth, particularly when doing so willfully spreads misinformation, but eliciting fear has been a part of their playbook. We should strive to understand the full picture, the entire story – and that’s something that Eric Friedman simply chooses not to do.  The bottom line is that Mariner East 2, and the Mariner East projects, will boost Pennsylvania’s economy and create tens of thousands of jobs; providing increased access to efficient, clean-burning, affordable energy; and provide countless economic benefits for Pennsylvania, all while ensuring the safety of our communities and environment.

Fringe Groups Continue To Ignore Facts On ME2

In March of 2017, an inspector for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) observed “numerous coating scrapes” on sections of pipe that were to be used for the Mariner East 2 Pipeline near Hopedale, Ohio. The impacted sections were immediately removed by Sunoco, the construction company building Mariner East 2, and replaced with new pipe that both exceeded industry safety standards, and passed additional inspections.

On January 11 of this year, the PHMSA issued a “Notice of Probable Violation” to Sunoco as a result of this incident. Anti-pipeline activists without professional knowledge of the industry or factual knowledge of this specific situation seem to be using State Impact’s story to paint this as a “gotcha” moment, when in reality this is simply the safety system working, and Sunoco has eagerly worked to ensure this occurs nowhere else along the construction route. Looking at the PHMSA order, it does appear that Sunoco had noted the damage to the pipe by saying “that pipe number 9567161903, identified by Sunoco as the gouged segment of pipe , was subjected to the field bending which resulted in damage to the outside diameter pipe wall,” and per the report, it does not appear that the pipe had, at that time, been installed for use.

Richard Kuprewicz, President of Accufacts, who does have expertise in the world of pipeline integrity management did comment on the story. As State Impact reported, “Richard Kuprewicz, president of Accufacts, said it appeared that the Ohio incident was not too serious, since the agency did not impose a fine, and that Sunoco seems to have fixed the problem. “It’s a year ago, they are not really getting too serious about it in the sense of escalating a major fine,” said Kuprewicz about the incident. “It signals to me that the company, in getting this called to their attention, had an explanation that reached some satisfaction with PHMSA.”

State Impact, reported on the Notice of Probable Violation in a story clearly slanted towards the anti-infrastructure groups who rely on ideological gimmicks to push an anti-progress, radical agenda that will only hurt the Pennsylvania economy, and Pennsylvanian workers.

Eric Friedman, a member of the Middletown Coalition, an anti-pipeline group in Delaware County, called it “frightening” to think of “how many other instances of substandard construction there may be on Mariner East,” showing just how willing these groups are to turn a blind eye to the truth. Friedman has no real knowledge of the facts of this situation, and he has no knowledge of what steps Sunoco has taken over the past year to fix and prevent this problem.

Friedman chooses to ignore the fact that this is an example of the process working. Inspectors from a number of different groups – federal, state, and private – all examine every single stretch of pipe that is going to be laid down on projects like Mariner East 2. When they discover an issue and that issue is resolved, it’s a success of the safety nets set up precisely to ensure that the pipeline construction process is as safe as possible. Regulators are intended to oversee the project based on safety regulations and not through a fringe-ideological lens like Friedman does.

Taking in only the top of State Impact’s article, or Eric Friedman’s misinformed quote, will leave you with an incorrect impression of this development.  This really shows how important it is to have a well-informed discussion about projects like Mariner East. Relying on ideological slanted perspective like this does not tell the real story, but leans more towards ideological propaganda.