HARRISBURG – April 17, 2018 – State Senator Andy Dinniman said today that the Wolf administration’s plans to use fines from Sunoco’s Mariner East II pipeline violations to fund a grant program would neither undo the damage already caused, nor prevent the potential of future pipeline-related threats to local residents’ health, safety, and well-being.

“While I welcome the notion that these funds will be put back into communities along the pipeline route ostensibly to protect our environment, drinking water, and streams and waterways, I cannot help but point out that the best way for DEP to do that is to do its job the right way going forward. That means better communication among agencies, tighter pipeline regulation and inspection, and stronger enforcement of pipeline-related permits,” he said. “The bottom line is DEP’s job is to protect the environment. That has not been done and no amount of grants can change that.”

“Furthermore, the entire premise seems backward. Why create a grant program to fix problems when you can prevent such problems to begin with?” Dinniman added. “The very idea of throwing money at this issue seems to indicate first, a lack of appreciation for the very real and very significant public safety risks at stake, and second, an acknowledgment of the vast inadequacies in DEP’s ongoing response, or lack thereof.”

Dinniman also pointed out that while the grants will be used for environmental reclamation and preservation projects, none of the funding would go to public safety, which is the foremost concern on many residents’ minds.

“What’s most disappointing is that while grants will be available for environment projects, not one dime of the $12.6 million fine will go to obtain an independent risk assessment of the Mariner East Project, which is sorely needed,” he said. “Instead, citizens are raising the money for such an assessment themselves. All we’re asking r is to fully know and understand the risks associated with this project – project that been plagued by problems from the beginning.”

So far, residents have raised more than $18,600 to obtain an independent risk assessment. Those interested in donating can do so at https://www.gofundme.com/citizens039-risk-assessment-of-me2.

In February, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) collected a $12.6 million penalty for permit violations related to the construction of the project. The penalty, one of the largest collected in a single settlement, was deposited into the Clean Water Fund and the Dams and Encroachments Fund.

According to DEP, these grants will be directed to the 85 municipalities along the path of the Mariner East II pipeline to eliminate pollution and protect the public from unsafe dams, water obstructions, and encroachments.

Dinniman added that all criticism aside, he still welcomes the return of some of the funding to communities impacted by the pipeline in Chester County and that his office is available to assist any municipalities interested in applying for grants.

Eligible grant applicants include the municipalities, county conservation districts, incorporated watershed associations, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations along the length of the MEII pipeline. The 45-day grant application round will open May 7, 2018. DEP anticipates announcing the approved projects in the summer of 2018.

Examples of eligible projects include (but are not limited to):

  • Projects to improve water quality while enhancing community recreational opportunities, such as restoration and enhancement of natural water resource features at community parks and public properties, including lake restoration and wetland creation.
  • Projects to educate future generations about water resource protection, such as demonstration projects that showcase pervious pavement, stormwater runoff management features and systems, bio-retention systems, constructed wetland complexes, stormwater runoff collection and reuse projects, stormwater mitigation projects that reduce rate and volume and improve water quality on a school or other public property.
  • Projects to improve and/or protect public drinking water sources and infrastructure, such as repairs to drinking water system source facilities that improve resiliency of the water supply, including water supply dam rehabilitation work and upgrades, and repairs to water treatment infrastructure and water intakes.
  • Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) projects to address rate, volume and/or sediment load, including flood-control project features and retrofits to existing stormwater runoff control infrastructure that reduce rate and volume of stormwater runoff.
  • Projects that result in nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment load reductions within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and impaired waters, including stream buffers, stream restoration projects, wetland restoration or enhancement projects.
  • Projects that result in water quality improvements in DEP Priority Watersheds and Impaired Watersheds within the 85 municipalities.

For more information on the components of the grant program, please visit http://www.dep.pa.gov/Citizens/GrantsLoansRebates/Pages/Water-Quality-Projects-Along-ME2-Pipeline.aspx.

 

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