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.

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.

Dinniman Stonewalled Himself From Getting Answers on Meritless Pipeline Probe

State Sen. Andy Dinniman’s anti-pipeline theatrics were on full display last week during a Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee hearing to reconfirm Patrick McDonnell as the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Dinniman clashed with fellow committee members over his instance on peppering McDonnell with a series of loaded questions regarding the DEP’s involvement in the Mariner East pipeline project. Ironically, McDonnell was largely unable to respond to Dinniman’s inquiries due to a set of meritless local and state investigations that the senator himself is involved in.

In declining to comment on pending litigation, McDonnell followed longstanding protocol designed to protect taxpayers from frivolous lawsuits and ensure legal proceedings are properly insulated from political discourse. As Democratic Sen. John Yudichak made clear early on in the hearing, questions regarding ongoing litigation “are out of order and inappropriate.”

“It does a disservice to this committee and to the full Senate if members seek to impede or influence the outcome of litigation or an investigation through their questions in today’s proceeding,” said Yudichack, who serves as committee’s minority chair.

Not satisfied with his self-induced stonewalling, Dinniman suggested McDonnell’s reconfirmation hearing be delayed until litigation concerning Mariner East is resolved. This however would be pointless given Senate rules governing confirmation proceedings.

“We can delay the hearing which means he’s going to be automatically confirmed without a hearing,” noted Committee Chairman Gene Yaw. “If you want to make a press release out of this, that’s fine,” he added, noting Dinniman’s tendency for sensation-seeking headlines.

After nearly a hour of squabbling with Dinniman, visibly frustrated legislators ultimately voted in a bipartisan manner to advance McDonnell’s reconfirmation to the full Senate for a final vote, leaving Dinniman amongst the extreme minority on the committee.

Wednesday’s hearing came in the wake of new questions surrounding the true motivation behind Dinniman’s anti-pipeline vendetta. A review of Dinniman’s campaign finance disclosures by the website Natural Gas Now found that the senator has received nearly $80,000 from a developer with a financial interest in seeing the Mariner East project derailed.