Smoke and Mirrors Driving Anti-Pipeline Activists’ Arguments

The Mariner East misinformation machine generated by anti-pipeline activists continues its repetitive drum. Yesterday, an anti-pipeline blogger attempted to make the very tenuous comparison of Mariner East to a nuclear plant in Suffolk County, New York. The piece ignored the many differences between natural gas and nuclear energy and highlighted the author’s lack of understanding about Mariner East.

Some very clear oversights include:

  • Mariner East is already permitted and has been operating safely since 2016;
  • Regulators (PUC and PHMSA) have reviewed Mariner East’s risk assessment as required;
  • Sunoco is a public utility according to the PUC; and
  • Pipelines are the safest way to transport energy resources.

The arguments are nothing new. The blog is just the latest piece of propaganda pushed in an attempt to mislead the public. Lacking a credible argument, they are conflating two very different circumstances as evidence to back up their argument, which hurts their credibility.

For starters, nuclear power generation and natural gas are two very different industries. Pennsylvania has a long history with both that continues to this day. Nuclear energy, like natural gas, is a cleaner burning energy source than alternatives like coal, but the similarities end there.

While Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant, as it was written, never produced a watt of electricity, Mariner East has been operating safely for several years. Mariner East 1 was fully operational in 2016 and is transporting propane to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex today. Mariner East 2 began operations in 2018. In June, Thom Ferro, owner of Ferro Fuel had an OpEd in the Delco Times touting the benefit that this pipeline currently provides local residents. “Some have tried to act like Mariner East provides zero local benefit, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” Ferro stated. “My employees visit Marcus Hook daily to fill up with products shipped by Mariner East and deliver those fuels to local residential customers. At the end of the day, every single one of us depends upon reliable energy resources every day. And while renewables are no doubt the wave of the future, resources like natural gas are essential in today’s economy.”

Pipeline opponents’ favorite insistence is that the Mariner East 2 project lacks a risk assessment study. As required as a part of the regulatory process, the pipeline operator must complete a risk assessment and work with regulators. For the Mariner East projects, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, ensure that all risks are mitigated and first responders are trained to respond. The blogger cannot with a straight face deny that this has occurred as spelled out in Pennsylvania regulatory law. Those opposed to this project would like to release this information publicly despite serious security concerns, as evidenced by the PUC’s public opposition to such proposals.

And finally, the blogger likes to disregard clear facts and argue that certain realities are debatable. First, Sunoco is a public utility as determined by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and upheld by every court presented with the question to date. Nobody claims to be a public utility as the blogger seems to think. They either are or they are not. In this case Sunoco has been deemed a public utility. Second, the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline Hazardous Safety Materials Administration, utilizing hard data, has determined that pipelines are the safest means to transport energy products. In fact, they are 4.5 times less likely to “experience an occurrence” than rail, the next safest alternative to pipelines. To argue that pipelines are not safe disregards these facts.

In this case, the blogger has been very successful pushing misinformation. Their comparisons and arguments however, must be checked because they are not based in fact. They are undoubtedly entitled to share their views; however it is unfortunate when they rely on faulty or misinformation to make their arguments.