Anti-Pipeline Blogger Back to Blurring Truths and Creating Conspiracy Theories to Fit His Agenda

In his recent Dragonpipe Diary blog, George Alexander paints yet another conspiracy theory about the Mariner East pipeline for his readers.

On June 22, Joshua Springer, a former pipeline technician, pleaded guilty in federal court to falsifying records about the integrity of welds on the Mariner East pipeline. Springer worked on a 20- mile section of the pipeline in western Pennsylvania and his responsibilities included taking X-rays of welds and interpreting the data to make sure the welds met proper standards based on PHMSA regulations. In 2018, Energy Transfer’s (ET) outside auditors discovered that Springer indicated welds on the pipeline were properly X-rayed when they had not been. ET reported their findings to regulatory authorities and Springer was fired. The stretch of the pipeline under scrutiny had already been completed, but was not yet in operation. To ensure the integrity of the pipeline, Energy Transfer made sure to re-inspect all of the welds, with PHMSA oversight of course and found that they were all in compliance.

While George Alexander would like to paint a conspiracy theory that Joshua Springer took a plea deal in order to give prosecutors information on other cases involving “higher ups,” the truth of the matter is that Energy Transfer handled this unfortunate incident with haste and professionalism. The rest of us continue to live in reality while Alexander continues publishing misinformation to fit his own agenda.

Sunoco Defeats the Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s Recent Lawsuit

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s lawsuit against Sunoco regarding the Mariner East II Pipeline has been dismissed, and rightfully so. Delaware Riverkeeper Network claimed that Sunoco violated the Clean Water Act when the company did not seek a federal permit, even though the company had already secured a nearly identical state permit. Judge Paul Diamond found their claim to “offend basic principles of fairness” and “do nothing to help protect the environment.” The Mariner East II Pipeline has endured many such frivolous lawsuits and has yet again, come out on top.

In order to fully comprehend why lawsuits like this are grounded in personal sentiment rather than legal principle it is important to understand the details of the case and judgement.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed the lawsuit claiming that Sunoco violated the Clean Water Act by not applying for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination (NPDES) permit. This permit protects companies from violating the Clean Water Act if they discharge “pollutants” through a “point source” into a body of water in the U.S.

However, under the Clean Water Act, the states themselves set water quality standards using federal criteria, anticipating a partnership between states and the Federal Government. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is therefore responsible for water quality regulation. While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can distribute NPDES permits, states also have their own permit programs for discharges into waters. In lamest terms, once the EPA approves a state’s permitting program, the availability of federal NPDES permits is suspended.  This Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) exists between the Commonwealth, the EPA, and DEP.

The MOA requires that the DEP (state) provides the EPA (federal) with all draft permits, inspection notes, and all data to be shared so that the EPA can evaluate the permit in regards to the NPDES program. The Mariner East II pipeline had already undergone these inspections and had their materials submitted on a federal level through the Commonwealth’s permit program and was approved.

Sunoco did take the necessary steps to protect against any inadvertent returns by taking the DEP’s advice and applying for E&S permits. An expert witness testified that E&S permits are nearly identical to NPDES permits and that the DEP has never engaged in issuing NPDES permits to pipeline projects.

While the Delaware Riverkeeper Network claims that Sunoco discharged industrial wastes into waters without a NPDES permit, the truth is a permit would not have been required. The DEP had already determined that after Sunoco received their permits from the state, any inadvertent returns are a compliance matter and subject to the DEP’s authority. Sunoco did receive substantial penalties for noncompliance with the E&S permits.

Consequently, Judge Diamond found “imposing liability on Sunoco for failing to secure NPDES permits would offend basic principles of fairness and effect an absurd result.” Judge Diamond agrees that the pipeline has “been subject to the fullest regulation.”  This lawsuit was simply an attempt to, yet again, end construction of Mariner East II based on personal grudges held against Sunoco instead of sound legal standard.

Latest by Dragonpipe Diary: Laughable

One of the major downsides to the dawning of technology is a growing lack of fact-driven reporting and journalistic integrity. These are standards that most expect from news sources, but with the decline of professional journalism, fringe activists have had an increased opportunity to play journalist, spreading misinformation.

Dragonpipe Diary is one site that falls into this category. The site’s operator is an admitted fringe, activist whose blog falls more in the category of ideological diatribe than fact-based reporting.

In a recent blog titled, “Two of Sunoco’s favorite myths: ethane is “energy”; propane is “needed.” According to Websters Miriam Dictionary, ethane is “found in natural gas and used as a fuel.” We here at the Pennsylvania Pipeline Review do not admit to be chemists by training; however some of us have taken advanced chemistry classes. To us, “fuel” sounds like energy, but how about we ask Websters Miriam Dictionary this as well. Fuel is “a material used to produce heat or power by burning.” Can we agree that power means energy?

It appears that Websters Miriam Dictionary disagrees with Dragonpipe Diary. The facts also disagree with Dragonpipe Diary. They question whether ethane is used as a fuel source for the new Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) Fairview Plant in Cambria County. According to the company’s website, “the plant is now supplying natural gas and ethane-fueled combined-cycle electric power to more than one million Pennsylvania homes and businesses.”

And now that we have that settled, what does American Ethane say are the benefits of ethane are? “Ethane is a clean burning fuel and can be liquefied at a higher temperature, which decreases infrastructure transport costs. As a result, ethane is being looked to as a more efficient fuel source for fast growing and developing countries.”

More here from a Power Engineering article form March 24th:

The Fairview Energy Center successfully completed ethane testing and is now ready for commercial use. CPV called Fairview the only power plant of its scale globally to have ethane blending with natural gas.

Using GE’s DLN2.6+ AFS combustion system, CPV reported, Fairview can use ethane for enhanced plant economics such as when the price of natural gas might increase.  CPV completed the $1 billion, 1,050-MW Fairview project in Johnstown, PA., late last year.

“We are proud to announce the completion of commissioning with 25 percent ethane mixed with natural gas at our Fairview Energy Center, making it the first plant of its kind as well as one of the most efficient combined-cycle power plants in the world,” said Gary Lambert, CEO of CPV. “CPV’s continual deployment of cutting-edge technology has propelled us to the forefront of the competitive power industry in clean, efficient as well as renewable generation. We are grateful to chart this course alongside our partner GE as we continue to build upon our longstanding, prosperous relationship.”

The Fairview Energy Center utilizes GE equipment, including turbines, generators, combustion and software systems. Kiewit was the main construction contractor.

“GE’s innovative combustion technology at CPV Fairview enables industry-first levels of ethane fuel flexibility and greater efficiency,” said Scott Strazik, CEO of GE Gas Power. “We are proud to work with CPV to help provide highly efficient, reliable and affordable electricity for their customers across the region.”

And who supplies the ethane to CPV Fairview? Mariner East is according to many articles in Cambria County papers such as this OpEd by former Congressman Charlie Melancon from January in the Johnstown Tribune Democrat. Melancon toured the facility during construction.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “slightly more than half of Pennsylvania households use natural gas as their primary heating fuel.”

What the diarist doesn’t want to discuss with his readership is not only propane absolutely necessary in Pennsylvania, the larger issue as it pertains to Mariner East, is what is his alternative plan for transporting propane to consumers. He fails to understand the countless propane uses and lacks an ability to face reality that propane is absolutely needed right now.

Last fall there were many in the agricultural sector raising alarm over the low propane supply across the country to dry crops. There was even a House Agricultural Committee letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to increase propane supply. Last we checked, Pennsylvania is an agricultural state. We have access to these products, but would prefer that the transportation by more dangerous modes such as truck and rail are minimized. Pipeline is the safest way to transport these products according to the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Additionally, the diarist prefers to sidestep the countless propane uses. A quick search online took us to the Home Advisor website where they list the number of home propane uses. The top one is, “Heating Your Home or Office.”

Last June, Thom Ferro, owner for Ferro Fuel, which transports a variety of fuels to homes in businesses in Southeast Pennsylvania said this in an OpEd that ran in the Delco Times:

Mariner East and the revitalization of the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex is huge for my business as a transport operator for a variety of fuels such as propane to local residents in Southeast Pennsylvania. Some have tried to act like mariner East provides zero local benefit, which couldn’t be further from the truth. My employees visit Marcus Hook daily to fill up with products shipped by Mariner East and deliver those fuels to local residential customers.

There is a lot of misinformation spread about the Mariner East and Marcus Hook projects. Misinformation that must be called out. Having an opinion or having a certain ideology is and forever will be a very positive thing. We just wish that those opinions are backed up by facts instead of baseless rhetoric.

Opinion Piece in the Unionville Times Misses the Point on Mariner East Construction

Recently, an opinion piece was published in the Unionville Times regarding Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to allow construction on Mariner East to continue. The author and editor, Mike McGann, refuses to acknowledge that he, along with all Pennsylvanians, continue to be the beneficiaries of economic stimulation that energy infrastructure enables throughout the state. Gov. Wolf’s decision to allow construction is keeping that stimulation alive during a time of economic uncertainty.

McGann claims to be concerned that workers will not practice social distancing if on the job, but just like grocery stores and other essential businesses remain open under that stipulate, the same is possible with construction. He goes as far as providing pictures of construction workers but no proof of where they are even obtained from, not a street sign or pipeline in sight. In addition to that, if these workers are even working on Mariner East, they seem to be complying with the 6 ft. distancing rule and are wearing the appropriate protective gear.

McGann fails to acknowledge the fact that energy resources are still needed during a quarantine. As widely reported, Mariner East transports critical propane and ethane from the Marcellus Shale. A large number of Pennsylvanian’s depend on these resources for home heat and electricity, service that would be lost without the continued infrastructure development.

Mariner East has already suffered significant delays due to frivolous lawsuits and the timing of this pandemic could not have been worse. Hard working union members were finally able to continue construction after a recent DEP permit bar was lifted, only to get halted again by COVID-19. Gov. Wolf’s intentions were not to spread the illness, but to allow those who could continue to work safely under the given circumstances, not to lose their jobs again. It is apparent McGann would rather see more of PA’s population unemployed and struggling to survive, than admit the need to complete Mariner East.

Different Times, Same Angry Opponents

Anti-pipeliners just can’t bring themselves to rise above an international crisis. Their hatred for business, especially industries tasked with providing citizens critical resources to sustain daily life during the ongoing Coronavirus, pervades.

Who are they? A fringe environmental group with a long history of civil disobedience, a backbench state sentator who generates more paper with ludicrous press statements than legislation passed, and a blogger. As usual, they’re all apoplectic that Pennsylvanian’s want to work.

Last week, Jim Snell for the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 420 released the following statement in response to State Senator Andy Dinniman’s request for regulators to shut down Mariner East construction.

“The health and safety of our workers is paramount — always. It is part of our culture as highly skilled laborers, and it is something we take seriously at every job site, because we want all of our workers to get home safely after their shifts end. Contrary to the senator’s claim, Gov. Tom Wolf has declared ongoing construction as essential work. That means our hardworking men and women are on the frontline. Although much of our work is spread across large areas rather than confined to small spaces, enhancing social distancing practices, our workers are taking every recommended precaution. Local 420 continues to monitor the situation, relying on state and federal updates, while employing the most effective measures to protect the health and safety of our men and women and the communities where we work.”

On Thursday, as has been widely reported, Governor Wolf did in fact shut down most all construction activities across the commonwealth. As is always the case, there must be exceptions to such an order. Exceptions for work that provides vital resources for citizens. Resources such as electricity and home heat. Contrary to what some anti-pipeliners might believe, these products are in fact declared life-sustaining. Without electricity, hospitals can’t function, drugstores would close.

As the West Chester Daily Local reported yesterday, Mariner East’s operator is working with the Governor’s office to ensure that they are doing what they can at this time of uncertainty while also adhering to the shutdown order. At this time, crews are on sites to ensure they are secure, maintained, and stable.

While special interests opposed to energy production and the safe transport of these resources to homes, hospitals, and other businesses, Energy Transfer is working tirelessly to do what they can to ensure that no homes lose electricity and hospitals are open for business. 

Another LTE in the DelCo Times Ignores the Facts

Another LTE published in the DelCo Times insists that pipeline infrastructure in Pennsylvania is the end all be all, ignoring the fact that the energy sector employs Pennsylvanians, significantly reduces CO2 emissions, and provides viable access to efficient energy.

In his LTE, Daniel Fernandez, suggests that Pennsylvania should switch to solar and wind energy in order to eliminate emissions. Fernandez refuses to acknowledge the eradication of the economic benefits Pennsylvania reaps due to the energy sector and how that would affect the entire state. He also fails to cope with realities related to energy demand. Renewables currently make up around 17% of the energy mix and without development of new technologies can’t yet produce adequate energy to meet demand (EIA.org). Not to mention, because renewables are less efficient, the cost of energy itself would increase.  Renewable energies might be virtually inexhaustible but are limited in the amount of energy that is available per unit of time (EIA.gov).

At the very least, natural gas must be a bridge fuel that is utilized until the deficiencies of renewables can be overcome. With that being said, we must have adequate energy infrastructure to ensure the safe, efficient, and reliable transport of these resources.

It’s lights out if we do not acknowledge reality with regard to energy.

FACT CHECK: George Alexander’s Guest Column in the Delco Times Spews Unsourced and False Claims

FACT CHECK: George Alexander’s Guest Column in the Delco Times Spews Unsourced and False Claims

Over the weekend, the Delco Times decided to publish an OpEd by George Alexander that calls out an OpEd written by Earl Baker, spewing false and inaccurate information. Not only does Alexander attempt to combat the facts Baker provides in his OpEd, but he does so without any proof. The anti-pipeline blogger fails to provide a single source for his statements and misinforming the public is a dangerous way to gain followers.

Below are statements from Alexander’s piece that are erroneous, accompanied by sourced facts that tell the REAL story. It is apparent that George Alexander prefers to warp information to scare Pennsylvanians into being threatened by pipeline infrastructure, rather than educate the public with the facts.

  • FALSE STATEMENT: “Mariner East has almost nothing to do with energy.”
  • TRUTH: The Mariner East pipeline carries propane, ethane, and butane, which are used for home heating and various industrial uses (EIA.gov). In 2018, Pennsylvania ranked second in the nation in electricity generation from nuclear power, which supplied 39% of the state’s net generation. Half of Pennsylvania households use natural gas as their primary home heating fuel. From 2010 to 2018, PA’s share of electricity generated from natural gas more than doubled. (EIA.gov)

  • FALSE STATEMENT: “Over 90% of the material it carries is shipped overseas to make single-use plastic.”
  • TRUTH: It would be nice to know where Mr. Alexander gets his information because it’s not accurate. According to employees at the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex, around 80-100, 9,000 gallon trucks pick up propane daily at Marcus Hook, which equals 720,000 gallons or 17,142 barrels. Mariner East 1 carries 70,000 barrels a day, which means that 24% of the resources transported on this pipeline are for not just domestic, but local use (Edgemont.org). And Marcus Hook is just one of the off-takes on this pipeline.

  • FALSE STATMENT: “Mariner East, which carries no natural gas at all and operates at pressures far higher than those of natural gas pipelines.” & “Liquefied gas is far more volatile than natural gas.”
  • TRUTH: Mariner East carries natural gas but in their liquid form or natural gas liquids (NGLs). NGLs are hydrocarbons (the same family of molecules as natural gas) but composed exclusively of carbon and hydrogen (EIA.gov). A pipelines’ allowance of operational pressure depends upon the construct of the pipeline and the materials it carries. While liquefied gases are more volatile because they require high pressures and low temperatures for transportation, the pipelines that transport them are designed to account for those changes. According to PHSMA, certain pipelines are allowed to operate at higher pressures if certain conditions are met that ensure safety. Allowing pipelines to operate at higher pressures leads to greater efficiencies and gas product throughput. (PHSMA.dot.gov).

  • FALSE STATEMENT: “CPV Fairview will never actually use ethane from Mariner East.”
  • TRUTH: Mariner East pipelines are located on site at CPV Fairview and are clearly listed as a fuel source of ethane (CPV.com).

  • FALSE STATEMENT: “These materials present the risk of a rupture and explosion that could kill hundreds of people in Delaware and Chester counties, as multiple studies of Mariner East risk have shown.”
  • TRUTH: Throughout the Mariner East’s construction, multiple risk assessments were conducted. In fact, Alexander helped coordinate the “Citizens Risk Assessment” commissioned by a coalition that paid Quest Consultants to study the impact the pipeline could have in the case of an emergency. That report stated, “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…” (Delco Times).

George Alexander’s strategy to frighten Pennsylvanians about the risk associated with Mariner East is not based on factual evidence. Mariner East is not about risk, it is about providing Pennsylvania the infrastructure needed to transport the Commonwealth’s naturally flowing resources and enabling it to prosper. 

Fearmongering is Unfair to Pennsylvanians Everywhere

In a recent editorial published by the Delco Times, the author follows other anti-pipeline activist rhetoric to instill fear among Pennsylvanians regarding the Mariner East pipeline while blatantly ignoring the facts. Pennsylvania has been safely operating pipelines for decades. Threatening residents with a “what if?” situation is a desperate attempt to defend a position that is unwarranted.

When it comes to the Mariner East pipeline system, Energy Transfer has worked in cooperation with state and local governments to ensure public safety. They have trained 2,027 emergency officials, public officials and excavators, 2,018 first responders and have held 22 meetings for 44 schools from 2017 to 2019 alone. 

In addition to this preparation, the actual pipeline system itself is built to be proactive. Every step of construction is prefaced with intense regulations and review with both state and federal agencies that must sign off on the project. On the construction front, Energy Transfer has instituted state of the art technologies that include control room monitoring, automatic shut off values, and regular line inspections.

The author also chooses to ignore the fact that multiple risk assessments have been performed on the pipeline. Although a risk assessment was required and shared with regulators for approval by law, the Delaware County Council chose to spend over $100,000 of taxpayer dollars to conduct their own in 2018. The study told us what we already knew. As Kathleen Carey reported, “…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…”

Mariner East exceeds federal pipeline safety regulations, but anti-pipeline activists would rather unfairly scare Pennsylvanians into only seeing their side rather than inform the public with facts. “What ifs” can apply and intimidate you out of doing almost any activity throughout your day. However, preparation is the key to ensuring those “what if” occurrences remain at bay. Mariner East has gone above and beyond ensuring the public’s safety and it is time for anti-pipeline activists to recognize the realities of pipeline safety. 

Recent News Story Leaves Out Much of the Story

Sometimes the local media can’t help themselves in adding fuel to a fire instigated by local fear mongers in Southeast Pennsylvania. Personal and community safety is always top of mind, but sometimes the local media seems to push a narrative that inflames worry in local residents.

Yesterday, the Delco Times ran a story in an attempt to raise concern about the Mariner East pipeline. The story highlights comments by Delaware County Emergency Services Director, Tim Boyce as part of an “ongoing formal complaint filed with the PUC” by Michael Bomstein, a serial pipeline opponent. Just a piece of the story was included.

For starters, the energy industry is nothing new to Southeast Pennsylvania. Pipelines have run through the area for over a century, safely delivering energy resources to area refineries and processing facilities. These pipelines existed long before many of these residents even moved into their houses.

Pipelines are the safest way to transport energy resources according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Unlike what Representative Danielle Friel Otten seems to believe, if these products aren’t transported by pipeline, alternative transportation such as truck or rail will have to be utilized. This means increased rail and truck traffic through our communities as opposed to safe transport underground. Do you think we have traffic problems now? What would 750 tanker trucks on our roadways each day do to the traffic problem?

Pipelines are 4.5 times safer than transport by rail, which has a higher safety rating than transport by truck. Pipelines deliver product safely at a rate of 99.999%.

These facts are simply glazed over by many of the doomsdayers. Although a risk assessment had been done and shared with regulators, as required by law, the Delaware County Council used over $100,000 of taxpayer dollars to conduct their own risk assessment in 2018, which told us what we already knew. As Kathleen Carey reported in November of 2018, “the report stated 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…”

Michael Bomstein is in the business of opposing this pipeline and has been quite successful finding clients. While he appears to be confident in his convictions, he has yet to find a judge that has ruled in his favor. His lack of success in the courtroom does not preclude him from continuing to push rhetoric intended to incite worry and fear in local residents, which is an interesting marketing strategy at the very least.

Mariner East is a legally permitted project and a pipeline safety expert found that the “pipeline…exceeds federal pipeline safety regulations.” Facts matter and should always be given higher credence than innuendo.

Pipeline opponents will undoubtedly continue in their opposition. Just wish they would make arguments based on facts as opposed to conspiracy.

Delaware Riverkeeper Uses Scare Tactics with NJ Residents and Ignores the Facts

This past Friday, pipeline opposition group, the Delaware Riverkeeper, tried to incite fear among NJ residents regarding the plans for an LNG storage facility on the Delaware River in Glouchester County. Riverkeeper, along with Sierra Club and Food & Water Watch, used fear tactics, telling residents how the facility would be bad for the environment, was at risk of exploding, and how the facility would disturb the river and their homes.

However, this is completely false as the purpose and construction of this facility will do nothing of the sort. The facility is meant to simply store LNGs and provide a place for products to be transported onto ships. These groups falsely made the facility out to be one that manufactured LNG and that is simply untrue.

The real concern behind this facility is that Pennsylvania is still lacking adequate pipeline infrastructure to transport LNGs safely. Materials will be transported to the Delaware River facility using rail instead of pipelines. Pipelines are actually four times safer for transportation of LNGs compared to truck and rail. However, Delaware Riverkeeper likes to ignore the facts and takes a stand against pipeline infrastructure as well.

Instead of opposing everything and spewing false information, the Delaware Riverkeeper should focus on finding something they can stand FOR. Pipeline infrastructure is the safest mode of transportation and has brought significant economic prosperity to Pennsylvania while lowering energy cost for PA’s citizens. New Jersey residents should not be frightened by the energy sector, but welcome it and the benefits that come along with it to their state.