Activist Webinar Spreads Misinformation

Last week the ‘Halt Mariner Now’ coalition – comprised of a number of infrastructure opposition groups – organized an online webinar hosted by two Mariner East 2 activists with a long history of opining against the project, while ignoring the facts of the project and industry at large.

The webinar, which lasted over an hour, exemplified the ‘preaching to the choir’ idiom. Ginny Kerslake and George Alexander have been longtime opponents of the Mariner East 2 project. Mr. Alexander publishes a personal blog called ‘DragonPipe Diary’ trying to discredit the project’s safety and benefits.

For instance, Mr. Alexander’s most recent blog tried to conflate the Mariner East 2 project and climate impacts from 1 billion units of single use plastics despite the pipeline supplying energy for a variety of industries.

How was this derived? Mr. Alexander sourced the daily energy delivered via Mariner East 2 then determined energy needed to produce a single water bottle. After a quick unit of division Mr. Alexander determined that the energy delivered by Mariner East 2 daily could produce 1 billion plastic water bottles. Just water bottles? Plastic is used for much more than just water bottles. Does Lego, Fischer Price, or VTech make any toys that do not require plastic?

This is precisely the kind of false rhetoric pontificated by the project’s opponents. Mr. Alexander takes no consideration for the actual use of the energy – much of which is consumed by Commonwealth homeowners and businesses – and instead is only interested in publishing a fearmongering headline.

Naturally, last week’s webinar leaned heavily on Mr. Alexander’s tactics.

Mr. Alexander took issue with a number of risk assessments done on the Mariner East pipelines and tried to discredit them by claiming that ‘individual risk’ is an inaccurate measurement although it is industry practice. Although his allies advocated for the risk assessments, they all take issue with the findings because the results failed to match their worldview.

Last December, the Pennsylvania Pipeline Review released a part one and part two blog on Mariner East risk assessments. Below as some key takeaways:

  • Richard Kuprewicz, President of Accufacts, found that “Sunoco meets and exceeds the requirements of federal pipeline safety regulations. These additional precautions reflect the level of respect that transporting such materials in a HCA should require in a prudent pipeline operation. Accufacts thus concludes that the 12-inch Repurpose Project spanning WGT meets or exceeds the prudent technical approaches commensurate with the safe transportation of HVL.”After reviewing information provided by Sunoco.

 

  • As mentioned in previous reports, pipe steel, even pipe steel manufactured over 80 years ago, does not age or wear out like some older materials such as cast or wrought iron that can be “age” sensitive. Pipe steel has essentially an infinite life if properly maintained and operated within its design parameters, and periodically assessed as to its integrity.

And as the Delco Times reported after the Delaware County Council commissioned a $115,000 independent risk assessment, “Report finds no great risk from pipelines.”

In fact, “…the report stated that a person is 20 times more like to die from a traffic accident or fall from stairs and 35 times more likely to die from a house fire than from an incident involving the Mariner East 2 pipeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Mr. Alexander publically took issue with these risk assessments because they don’t tell him what he wants to hear.

The Mariner East projects have exceeded federal and state regulatory requirements, thus making it less of a risk than a number of common actions people engage in daily. Before hosting a second webinar, ‘Halt Mariner Now’ and George Alexander ought to consider the costs and consequences of misinforming the public, and refusing to accept findings from industry professionals.

Union Pipeline Workers Rightfully Defend ME2 at Twin Valley Panel

50 people gathered by the Democratic-leaning group, Concerned Citizens of Twin Valley, held an anti-pipeline community meeting Tuesday night.

Participants on the panel included anti-pipeline blogger George Alexander, Sen. Judy Schwank and David Anspach, of Caernarvon Township. The three discussed their worries about the hazardous materials carried by the pipeline and its proximity to the community.

Anti-pipeline activists have been blaming Pennsylvania’s hard working, well-trained, highly skilled union laborers who are building the pipeline with what they claim is faulty construction. Such assessments are unfortunate and lack basic understanding of large construction projects necessary to make such claims.

Safety concerns raised by the panel were combatted with information from those closest to the construction of ME2, the union pipeline workers – the hard-working Pennsylvanians who work on these projects for a living. The workers noted they are clear witness to the company’s commitment to follow rigorous safety rules and protocols put in place by the Public Utility Commission in Pennsylvania. These union members are members of our community. Their families live in this area, their children go to schools in this area, and they, like most everyone else, want to be able to work in this area.

Pipelines are the safest form of transportation of energy products. In the panel, anti-pipeline blogger George Alexander either misspoke or purposely attempted to misstate the facts when he claimed that pipelines are about as safe as transport by railroad. In fact, pipelines are 4.5 times safer than rail.

What anti-pipeline activists continue to ignore is that Sunoco and Mariner East did more than what is necessary to engage the public on this project. The company participated in more than 750 meetings with counties and local municipalities, held 25 open house meetings in 21 counties, and more than 100 emergency preparedness meetings with stakeholders, emergency responders, and schools since 2014. These were all opportunities for the community to ask their questions and have them answered directly.

While their concerns are genuine, the pipelines in this area existed well before the more recent population increase. Mariner East made sure to utilize brownfield or existing right of way across much of the pipeline route. Mariner East 2 followed Mariner East 1 across most of the state from Southwest to Southeast Pennsylvania, which was in the 1930s. People chose to build communities, schools, and houses near the pipeline not the other way around.

Anti-pipeline activists are quick to oppose any type of energy project that has an impact on them or their community, but they, like the rest of us still rely on these products every single day. They would just prefer that other communities sacrifice so that they can author a blog or hold a meeting in an air-conditioned room on a Tuesday night. They’re quick to offer their outside the mainstream opinions, but fail to adhere to the consequences of their world view is disingenuous.

Pipeline Lawsuits Frivolous and Lawsuit Leader, Senator Dinniman, A Frivolous Taxpayer Money Spender

This week the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled against State Senator Andy Dinniman, finding that the Senator does not have personal or legislative standing to file a complaint against Sunoco LP, the Mariner East 2 pipeline operator.

Originally filed in the spring of 2018, Senator Dinniman’s complaint halted constructed of the pipeline. Though difficult to calculate, the hiatus imposed by the complaint certainly cost a number of union members time on the job while hindering Sunoco’s ability to deliver product to market at the capacities they anticipated. Senator Dinniman would like the public to think the missed earnings are something of a victimless crime.

What can concretely be calculated and examined is Senator Dinniman’s happy habit of frivolously spending taxpayer money while protecting his own cash flow.

In fact, the 2018 complaint was not paid for out of Senator Dinniman’s pocket. The Daily Local News reported that attorney fees for the filing were covered by the Democratic Caucus of the Senate.

So, despite seeking personal and legislative standing in the complaint, Senator Dinniman directed taxpayer money from a partisan caucus to support litigation personal to himself. What’s more is that the lawyers hired to see the complaint through had previously represented the Clean Air Council and Delaware Riverkeeper Network, two special interest groups that have worked at all costs to kill energy infrastructure in Pennsylvania.

Senator Dinniman’s liberty-taking with taxpayer money didn’t start in 2018 with the Pennsylvania PUC complaint, either.

In 2015 The Morning Call published an article on Pennsylvania state lawmakers’ district office lease expenses. Senator Andy Dinniman topped the list of all legislatures, paying $6,865 a month to Zukin real estate. On annual, Dinniman’s rent totals $82,380 of Pennsylvanians’ taxpayer dollars.

Funnily enough, Senator Dinniman’s district office rent is less than his annual legislator salary. Penn Live reported in 2018 that Pennsylvania state lawmakers – the second highest paid in the country – would receive a pay bump raising the base salary to $88,610. For context, in 2017 the average state lawmaker salary of the other 41 states that pay state lawmakers was $35,592, putting Senator Dinniman’s annual salary nearly 250% higher than his counterparts in other states.

And benefits? John Baer of The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that Senator Dinniman voted to end traditional pensions for other state employees while protecting his own.

It is obvious that Senator Dinniman is best at keeping energy benefits – including jobs, tax revenues, and affordable energy – from taxpayers while spending their money for his own convenience.

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.

Exaggerated Delco Times Guest Column Published to Incite Fear, Instead of Provide Facts

Yesterday, Delco Times published an article regarding a backfire incident at the Mariner East 2 pipeline site calling the backfire an “explosion”. This is the type of language used by anti-pipeline activists Tom Casey and Eric Friedman, whose goal it is to incite fear amongst local residents. By publishing this article, Delco Times is contributing to the spread of community wide fear and ignoring the fact that the Mariner East safety protocols did their job.

Tom Casey, the author of the column, mentions that the Chester County Emergency Management office was not present at the time of the backfire. However, the loud sound residents heard, posed no threat to the surrounding environment.

The loud noise in fact, was caused by bringing the pipeline back online following routine maintenance. There was no need for the Emergency Management office to be present. Instead, the office determined the event was a noise disturbance and dispatched local police to the site where they found no imminent danger.

There are multiple protocols just in case of an emergency, but the backfire that occurred last week was nothing of the sort. Casey and Friedman want to force their conspiracy theories on locals and get them to believe Mariner East poses a serious threat. However, Mariner East has worked with the local community to address concerns throughout the pipelines existence and goes beyond the requirements necessary to ensure pipeline safety.

Clean Air Council Fails to be Factual

Fringe activists are allowed to continue to say anything they please even failing acknowledge the facts. A recent article by the Keystone State News Connection, which was reposted from a Canadian outlet, appears to have been written from a press release by the fringe group, Clean Air Council, without any attempt to validate his baseless claims. Additionally, the article fails to provide any attempt at balance.

The article titled, “Explosion Spark Calls for More Pipeline Scrutiny” might as well just serve as a train of thought by Joseph Minot, executive director of the Clean Air Council because he gets a lot of facts wrong.

Minot claims that the Mariner East pipeline was not “permitted” and is not being “monitored” correctly when in fact, the Mariner East 2 pipeline received unprecedented regulatory scrutiny and the Department of Environmental protection said, “the permits are the most stringent DEP has ever issued.” The project has also received heightened regulatory oversight compared to other projects due to an agreement that the Clean Air Council, Minot’s organization, agreed to with the pipeline’s developer.

And let’s be clear, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration says that pipelines are the safest means to transport energy resources. In fact, they are more than 4.5 times safer than transport by rail, a possible alternative.

Minot can choose not to believe the facts, but he should not be allowed to make up his own.

Sensational Journalism Around Mariner East 2’s Backfire Misinforms

Yesterday, StateImpact, released an article noting a loud noise produced by the Mariner East 2 pipeline system. Even though there were no leaks or harm caused and the noise was part of routine maintenance, the news source’s article highlights two opponents, Tom Casey and Eric Freidman, who provide misleading information about the pipeline’s safety protocols.

Eric Freidman and Tom Casey are both environmentalists and NIMBY activists who have zero expertise in pipeline construction, operation, public safety or emergency preparedness. Their comments in the StateImpact article cause unnecessary confusion and worry around Mariner East 2 and should hardly be categorized as expert opinion and definitely aren’t based in fact.

Their comments refer to the safety protocols in place to deal with an emergency pipeline situation, calling them inadequate and unreliable. In reality however, Mariner East 2 has undergone significant tests and evaluations to ensure its safety during construction, and has multiple systems in place to address any abnormal activity.

For example, Mariner East 2 uses not only a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system to provide real-time data acquisition, monitoring and control of key operating points, but also a subsystem called Computational Pipeline Monitoring System (CPM). CPM analyzes the flow of liquids using algorithms and improves the operator’s ability to identify abnormal operating conditions. These types of systems provide real time information needed to avoid any possible devastations.

In the article Freidman claims, “No one, neither first responders nor area residents, are prepared for even this ‘dry run’ of a regional catastrophe.”

This is simply not true. There is a robust Facility Response Plan in place for a timely response to pipeline dangers, and first responders across the state have been trained through the Mariner Emergency Responder Outreach (MERO) program. This program trained about 2,350 firefighters, police officers, emergency medical service providers, municipal emergency management officials and other public safety personnel since 2013 to prepare them to respond to pipeline incidents. Therefore, Casey’s comment about how the police are not capable of determining safety because they only listen to what the operator says is incorrect as well. Locals also have the opportunity to address their safety concerns with the Public Awareness Program that holds biennial outreaches.

Freidman and Casey refuse to acknowledge the fact that Mariner East and the surrounding community have a more than adequate system to address incidents along the pipeline. The truth is that Mariner East was quick to respond to local authorities when during a routine maintenance, a backfire occurred on a flare stack while the station was brought back online. The loud noise was nothing other than that, a loud noise. Local authorities were aware of the incident and on the scene as intended.

Both opponents claim this incident is just a small example of the catastrophe and danger that could possibly ensue from the Mariner East 2 pipelines, but the only thing to be taken away from this small inconvenience is that the safety system in place works.

Opponents of Mariner East continue to reach and this time, threaten the public’s safety

Eric Friedman, president of the Andover Homeowners’ Association, and vocal opponent of the Mariner East Pipelines, announced that he will pressure the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to release documents detailing calculations on the effects of accidental release of natural gas liquids from the pipelines.

The PUC is obligated to deny release of the documents because of their sensitive nature and the possibility of jeopardizing public safety. Freidman, however, appealed to the Office of Open Records (OOR) in attempts to slow or halt Mariner East 2’s pipeline operation. The OOR sided in Friedman’s favor; however on July 25, the Public Utility Commission appealed the determination to the Commonwealth Court, stating that the documents contain confidential information and because disclosure could jeopardize security, they are entitled to withhold the release.

This is not the first attempt to block the Mariner East pipelines by Friedman. In 2017, he led local fights against the Mariner East 2 Pipeline after it was fully permitted for construction, advocated for the use of taxpayer dollars to fund a redundant risk assessments of the pipelines. Opponents like Friedman are reaching for anything to hold this project back while threatening public safety, and delaying economic opportunity through frivolous lawsuits and other actions.

If put in the wrong hands, these documents could cause great harm to innocent Pennsylvanians. Marcellus Drilling noted how terrorists for example, could potentially use this information to carry out their own objectives and attacks. They acknowledge the extreme nature of this claim, but it is conceivable.

Friedman’s battle against Mariner East is unwarranted and postpones Pennsylvania’s opportunity to benefit from its natural resources. Mariner East pipelines could generate $9.1 billion to the state’s economy and produce another $46 million in personal income taxes during construction. Local energy sources will also reduce energy costs for Pennsylvania consumers as well.

Mariner East projects have been extensively vetted by the most rigorous review processes at both state and federal levels. Attempts like Friedman’s serve to distract Pennsylvanians from all of the benefits they’re experiencing because of pipeline infrastructure.

The Truth on the Environmental Impact of Pipelines

Time and time again pipelines have come under fire. This time a report is claiming billions will be lost over PennEast and Mariner East 2 pipelines. However that is simply not the case.

The report, commissioned by New Jersey Conservation Foundation, found that those two pipelines “could cost communities up to $2.4 billion in environmental damage and lost services.” One point the study claims is the loss to industries such as agriculture and logging. In reality the natural gas and oil industry contributes nearly $44.5 billion to the state’s economy according to The American Petroleum Institute. Mariner East alone has the potential to generate $9.1 billion for the Pennsylvania economy.

The natural gas and oil industry also supports nearly 322,600 jobs and provides nearly $23 billion in wages. These staggering statistics of immense economic benefit are conveniently omitted in the report.

Another point missed by the report is the safety of Horizontal directional drilling (HDD). HDD is acknowledged as an industry best practice and the safest means of construction. HDD is environmentally sensitive, causing minimal impact on the surrounding area.

Bill Godsey, former geologist for the Texas Railroad Commission, notes:

“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.”

During construction fluids can escape, what’s known as an “inadvertent return,” 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, many everyday products like makeup are made using bentonite.

Godsey says: “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.”

Pipeline construction and operation are also not harmful to the environment or individual homes.

According to Philadelphia economist Kevin Gillen he often hears one common misconceptions from people “building a pipeline anywhere can result in environmental damage and that it could result in a decrease in nearby property values as a consequence of increased energy infrastructure going through a residential area…In both cases, the answer is that it is generally not true.”

Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration shows pipelines are the safest, most environmentally friendly way to transport energy resources. It is time to get the facts straight on pipelines and stop ignoring the many benefits in favor of listening to a few loud, fringe ideological voices.

Correcting Omissions in Philly Magazine Piece Regarding PA Pipelines

A recent piece published in Philly Magazine contains several omissions with regard to pipelines in Pennsylvania, particularly the Mariner East 2 project.  A few cases to point out:

There was an exhaustive permitting and review process.

Projects like Mariner East 2 undergo immense regulatory and public scrutiny. The Department of Environmental Protection spent more than 20,000 hours on project permits and responded to 29,000 comments after a series of statewide public hearings as part of a review process that stretched more than three years. That’s why, according to the department, the “permits are among the most stringent DEP has ever issued for this type of construction activity.” The Public Utility Commission has been an effective and a tireless watchdog, as its actions prove.

Local communities had ample opportunity to comment on the project.

Residents and officials at every level have had ample opportunities to review and comment on the Mariner East 2 project, and the volume of responses proves they did.

The backer of the project cares about emergency response planning.

The builder of the pipeline, Sunoco, annually offers awareness and emergency response training sessions with local responders, officials and excavators across its pipeline system. A supplemental training effort, the Mariner Emergency Responder Outreach (MERO) program, provided responders with additional guidance on hazardous materials and public safety sources. The MERO program has trained 2,350 individuals since 2013 across the pipeline’s entire footprint.

And, finally, pipelines remain the safest means of transporting petroleum products.

In November, Delaware County released the results of its own risk assessment study. Among other findings, the report concludes that living near Mariner East is significantly safer than other common activities. Specifically, it found that “a person is 20 times more likely to die from a traffic accident or fall from stairs and 35 times more likely to die from a house fire than from an incident involving the Mariner East 2 pipeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

That report confirmed what we have long known — that pipelines are the safest, most efficient means of transporting Pennsylvania’s energy resources. The fact is that if this pipeline is halted, this product will be getting to market via trucks and rail that pass through southeastern Pennsylvania communities.