Bad Decision from Judge Elizabeth Barnes

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.

Infrastructure Week a Good Opportunity to Reflect on Critical Energy Infrastructure

Today begins the annual bipartisan “Infrastructure Week,” kicking off nationwide efforts to raise awareness about the state of America’s infrastructure. For years, Infrastructure Week has highlighted the dismal state of bridges and roadways across the nation. While this year is expected to raise similar concerns, it also provides an opportunity to acknowledge and fix serious gaps in our nation’s energy infrastructure.

Energy is a critical component of the American economy and is a significant driver for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In fact, the Keystone State is now the second highest U.S. natural gas producing state in the nation. While the abundant resources provide an excellent economic opportunity for Pennsylvanians, in order to fully take advantage, there needs to be infrastructure capable of transporting these resources safely to end-users. Pipeline capacity issues have posed significant challenges to the oil and gas industry around the country, and threaten to do so in Pennsylvania as well, if not addressed. Unnecessary slowdowns and needless halts on operations have mired our state and raised concerns over demand in an already tight market. As Infrastructure Week progresses, our nation’s energy infrastructure should be front and center in the discussion to protect this critical part of our economy.

Senator Dinniman Press Release on PUC Decision Misses the Mark

Late last week Senator Andrew Dinniman issued a press release questioning the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) decision to restart operations on the Mariner East 1 pipeline. The release was riddled with inaccuracies and trumped up claims of destabilized geography, which have been definitely rejected by experts. This move is merely the most recent in a string of attempts by the Senator, a staunch and vocal opponent of pipelines, to delay a legally permitted project.

In spite of Senator Dinniman’s allegations, the facts remain the facts. The PUC’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, the expert agency at hand, found that there was no threat to the integrity of the Mariner East 1 pipeline and that geological conditions are suitable for continued operations. And the unanimous PUC vote to restart Mariner East 1 indicates that not only is the pipeline safe to operate, but also underscores that the rigorous oversight process in place is working.

Restart of the Mariner East 1 Pipeline Would Be a Win for Pennsylvanians

After a nearly two-month long shutdown of Sunoco’s Mariner East 1 pipeline, inspectors at Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) are recommending that the pipeline resume operations. The PUC’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement found that there was no threat to the integrity of the Mariner East 1 pipeline and that geological conditions are suitable for continued operations.

Restarting pipeline operations on Mariner East 1 is a decisive victory for the Commonwealth. Not only has the pipeline created thousands of jobs for local Pennsylvanians, together with Mariner East 2 and Mariner East 2X, the pipeline will provide a $9.1 billion economic impact for the state. Ending this shutdown and minimizing future disruptions to this important pipeline project is a critical step in encouraging further economic and energy development in the region. The PUC is meeting today to decide whether to approve the recommendation to restart operations for Mariner East 1.

Senator Dinniman’s Complaint Creates a Bad Precedent

Allowing Senator Dinniman’s complaint to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) in regard to Sunoco Pipeline to be considered creates a dangerous precedent. Regardless of the opinions expressed in Senator Dinniman’s complaint, many of which we categorically disagree with, the issue at hand is that he doesn’t have the standing to be filing.

The Senator does not live within the jurisdiction of the pipeline and therefore is not in a position to have his complaint legally considered. While he is claiming that he has standing because he crosses the line during his daily activities, such an argument stands on incredibly flimsy legal grounds. Considering the Senator’s complaint alone, would open Pandora’s box in terms of who is able to file complaints in upcoming disputes, setting a reckless legal precedent.

If Senator Dinniman is found to have standing here, there will be no end to the list of people who “have standing” and could file complaints on a whole host of issues. In this case, Senator Dinniman’s filing is just the latest in a long string of attempts to delay a legally permitted project by anti-infrastructure groups.

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.