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Dinniman Questions DEP’s Oversight of Mariner East Pipeline
WEST CHESTER (July 25, 2017) – Following multiple developments regarding Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 Pipeline project, state Senator Andy Dinniman today raised more serious questions about the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) willingness and ability to take proactive steps in protecting local residents and natural resources.
Today, an administrative law judge with Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) temporarily halted work on Mariner East 2 in West Goshen Township until the commission could hear and rule on whether Sunoco violated its 2015 settlement with the township.
In addition, the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board granted a petition by the Clean Air Council, the Mountain Watershed Association, and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network to halt all drilling operations associated with the construction of the Mariner East 2 natural gas pipelines in Pennsylvania. The shutdown of Mariner East 2 drilling follows last week’s filing that disclosed 61 drilling fluid spills and water contamination in multiple Pennsylvania regions, including West Whiteland and Uwchlan Townships. It will remain in effect until a full hearing can take place, currently scheduled for August 7.
Also, today a Consent Order and Agreement between Sunoco and the DEP appeared on the DEP’s website outlining previously reported impacts to residents’ private well water supplies in West Whiteland and Uwchlan and establishing a plan of corrective action. The order was dated July 24, 2017, and DEP confirmed that it had been signed by both parties and enacted.
In response to those developments, Senator Dinniman issued the following statement:
“Despite the absence of DEP action, we’ve successfully worked together with local residents and other organizations to put a temporary stop to drilling activities that have threatened private well water supplies and natural resources in Chester County and throughout Pennsylvania.
Ironically, now, at long last, DEP appears to be doing what it should have done from the beginning! In fact, the outline of ‘corrective action’ specified in the consent order reads like a list of commonsense measures that should have been spelled out in the DEP permit to begin with.
We’ve been talking about these concerns and imploring DEP to better protect our residents’ land, water, and environmental rights from the risks associated with this project for years. In the meantime, DEP has done nothing to address these concerns or more importantly, prevent them from occurring. In fact, it has not even provided adequate responses related to questions I’ve raised as a state Senator and a member of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
The bottom line is DEP should not have to be shamed into doing its job. First, it failed to address these concerns in a strong, constructive, and preventive manner during the permitting process. Then, it failed to enforce its original permit. Now, it’s trying to take action after the fact. Unfortunately, it’s too little too late. You can’t lock the barn door after the horse has bolted.
In my mind, DEP holds equal responsibility with Sunoco for the damage done by drilling operations both here in Chester County and at the more than 60 drilling fluid spills throughout the Commonwealth reported by the Clean Air Council and other organizations. Furthermore, the consent order is only specific to what it calls ‘the Shoen Road Drilling Area’ in East Whiteland and Uwchlan and does nothing to prevent similar events from occurring throughout the Commonwealth! Why not?
My office and I have been deeply involved in this issue and will continue to monitor it and take action as necessary. We’re not hydrologists or scientists, but from the onset, we knew enough to be very concerned and to know that this project has and had a very real potential for significant problems on both our local environment and to the health, safety, and well-being of our citizens. Meanwhile, DEP – the very agency charged with protecting public environmental rights and natural resources – has, until today, fallen woefully short in its duty. As a result, we’ve been forced to work around DEP and thankfully have forged productive working relationships with local groups and knowledgeable and responsive organizations like the United States Geologic Survey, Stroud Water Research Center, and the Chester County Water Resources Authority.
At the end of the day, DEP has failed and continues to fail to proactively protect residents and our environment through the enforcement of strong regulatory and preventative measures. At this point, a list of actions after the fact does little to raise my faith in its ability or willingness to do so.”