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.

Shutdown Aftershock Felt Throughout Pennsylvania

The largest oil refinery on the U.S. East Coast, Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES), plans to permanently shut down. While many anti-energy activists may be cheering, there are thousands of workers being negatively impacted by the sudden closure.

PES employs over 1,100 workers including nearly 700 union workers, Steelworkers and Steamfitters, as well as thousands of contractors. About 100 non-union employees are set to be laid off immediately, most of the nearly 700 union employees are expected to lose their jobs as soon as next week.

The shutdown of the refinery will also have rippling effects on Pennsylvania’s economy. An article by The Philadelphia Inquirer cites United Steelworkers Local 10-1 president Ryan O’Callaghan as being extremely disheartened by the loss of jobs.

Good paying, family-sustaining jobs are being lost, and if Delaware and Chester County government officials have their way, thousands more will be out of work. In the obsessive push to put an end to energy infrastructure development many often, if not conveniently, forget about the hundreds of thousands of people that are employed by the energy industry.

Pennsylvania is the home of the first oil discovery and has recently grown to become the second largest natural gas producer in the country. At a time when Pennsylvania should be investing more into the growing energy economy, this news moves the needle on workforce development in the wrong direction. We must make sure that we are bolstering energy jobs in the Commonwealth and keeping hard working Pennsylvanians employed.

Pipeline Infrastructure Underdeveloped in PA, DE, and NJ

New Fortress Energy, a subsidiary of Fortress Investment Group LLC, is looking to increase consumer access to the natural gas landscape in Pennsylvania.

Following an executive order by President Trump to authorize liquefied natural gas (LNG) via truck and rail, which has been prohibited for years, New Fortress Energy is looking to transport natural gas by rail from Northeast Pennsylvania to their facility along the Delaware River.

It is encouraging to see more investment in the Pennsylvania energy landscape, as reported by Marcellus Drilling News; however, this news highlights the inadequacy of pipeline infrastructure development to support the opportunities provided by the Marcellus and Utica Shale Formations.

Pipelines in Pennsylvania are largely at capacity. Coupled with their overall shortage and lack of pipelines a niche market has been created for New Fortress Energy to make a play in the Pennsylvania energy market.

This does come with its drawbacks, though. Both rail and truck transport of energy resources presents increased public safety risks over the much safer, pipeline alternative.

At a time when many pipeline opponents have highlighted the safety concerns of new pipelines in population centers, this is a result of their anti-progress agenda – less safe energy transportation through densely population areas such as Philadelphia, above ground.

New Fortress Energy’s entry will inevitably lead to lower energy prices but should be a signal to Pennsylvanians and policymakers that pipeline infrastructure development is needed and necessary to ensure the safety of local communities. Increased pipeline infrastructure in Pennsylvania can increase safety and continue to help the Commonwealth’s economy.

Pipeline Opponents Need to Think Through NGL Uses

Pipeline opponents have made a big stink of the uses of natural gas liquids particularly those transported to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex via the Mariner East 1 and 2 pipelines.

Opponents love to claim that the energy products shipped through Mariner East, in their entirety, to Europe to be used in the production processes of plastic products. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The natural gas produced in the west and transported east through the Mariner East pipelines and others will initially be used in a number of ways.

Example one: East of Pittsburgh sits the CPV Fairview facility. The complex is a 1,050 megawatt natural gas fueled electricity generation plant. One source for those resources will be Mariner East and that plant is slated to produce electricity for as many as 1 million Pennsylvania homes.

Example two: Ferro Fuels in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania is a local business that relies on the availability of natural gas at the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex. The company buys large quantities of processed natural gases to then package and sell for commercial and residential purposes. Again, another example of the usefulness of Pennsylvania natural gas that pays it back to the Commonwealth by supporting local business.

Example three: The glut of natural gas in Pennsylvania has afforded the state to become a player in the international energy market. Any fuel exported to foreign countries was paid for handsomely, generating tax revenues for the state, and putting the United States at the forefront of the energy market. Twisting this into a negative is incredibly naïve.

The bottom line is, energy production and pipeline infrastructure development is critical to ensure adequate supply of energy for consumers. Mariner East clearly has a local Pennsylvania benefit in the near term, but once in operation, could provide even greater benefit. One need to look no further than Braskem’s recent announcement to make investments in Texas when expansion of their Pennsylvania operations was more beneficial. The reason being that Pennsylvania did not have the adequate pipeline infrastructure to support their needs.

SEPA has 9 HVL Pipelines Operating Safely Today

Opposition to the safe transport of energy resources continue to spread misinformation and employ fear tactics to generate more opposition to pipelines. What they cannot deny is that pipelines are the safest means to transport energy resources according to the Department of Transportation Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

One line of attack that many pipeline opponents enjoy using is to misstate that Mariner East is the first pipeline of its kind running through Chester County. Mariner East is an HVL line of which there are at 9 HVL lines operating safely Chester County today according to the National Pipeline Mapping System. The numbers are similar in Delaware County.

Pennsylvania is home to the very first oil strike in the US and has had pipelines crisscrossing the state for years. Mariner East 1 was built in the 1930s when much of Chester County was farmland. Over time, Chester County has been developed. In other words, the easements were there first not the other way around as some would have you believe.

The Mariner East system is being built to transport propane, ethane, and butane, products that are critical in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Propane and ethane are critical for residential use for home heat, grills, and the nearly $1 billion CPV Fairview electricity generating facility in Cambria County will be directly connected to Mariner East for power generation.

Much of the criticisms lodged by pipeline opponents has little to no basis in fact, which is why continuing to correct their misstatements is critically important. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but basing that opinion on the facts shouldn’t be too much to ask.