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Dinniman: Sunoco Proposing New Drilling Method at Troubled Mariner East Site
WEST CHESTER (July 16, 2019) – Where twice they have failed, Sunoco/ET now wants to use a new and more invasive and intrusive drilling method to hammer the controversial Mariner East pipeline through the area of Lisa Drive in West Whiteland, state Senator Andy Dinniman said.
“Lisa Drive is ground zero for everything wrong with the Mariner East project and example of how ET/Sunoco has been permitted to operate in our communities with disregard for public safety, environmental protection, private property rights, and basic respect and decency,” Dinniman, who serves on the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said. “Now, after their drilling methods have failed twice and we’ve been left to pay the price, they want to try a third time. Enough is enough. How many do-overs will this company get before we face a real safety or environmental catastrophe?”
In a letter sent today to Patrick McDonnell, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Dinniman called on the department to reject Sunoco/ET’s latest permit modification request to use a process called “direct-pipe boring” through the same geologically questionable area and across a known fault-line.
“I am deeply troubled that Sunoco is seeking approval to utilize yet another intrusive and potentially disastrous construction method in an attempt to install the 20-inch pipeline under the Exton Bypass . . .” Dinniman wrote. “By my count, this is the third request of this sort, with each of the previous methods realizing grievous results that have injured private property, devastated environmental conditions, and threatened public safety. Simply put, thus far Sunoco has had a free pass to destroy a picturesque suburban community with zero repercussions and I am once again calling on the DEP to act in accordance to the interest of Pennsylvanians.”
Dinniman also noted that:
- The motivating factor used to justify the change of construction to Direct Pipe Bore is Sunoco’s admission that both conventional auger bore and FlexBore methods were failures, with the conventional bore process resulting in geologic issues, including “alignment drift and elevation deflections.” The DEP had approved both methods.
- The fact that there exists an 80-year-old pipeline actively transporting highly volatile natural gas liquids in immediate proximity and through a high consequence community leaves little room for failure or error.
- Previous construction attempts to cross this unstable karst geology and a fault line (the Marctic Thrust Fault zone) have resulted in the formation of half a dozen sinkholes and forced the eviction of Chester County residents from their homes along the pipeline route.
Dinniman said he questions the reasoning for allowing Sunoco/ET to pursue this drilling method, which involves utilizing a “50-inch outside diameter bore pipe attached to a ‘jacking block,’ that hammers the bore pipe while the tool is cutting through the geology,” in this high density, high consequence, and geologically problematic area.
“I am baffled by the fact that I must point out that our neighborhoods and communities should not serve as laboratories for Sunoco to field test new technology,” he wrote. “We have watched Sunoco fail time and time again and many are of the strong mindset that if the Department continues to turn a blind eye by allowing Sunoco to experiment with yet another untested construction method, a worst-case scenario might happen.”
Dinniman is holding a public meeting on this and other issues related to the Mariner East pipeline project on Thursday, July 18 at 7 p.m. at the West Whiteland Township Building.
The purpose of the meeting is for residents to share information, raise questions, and organize efforts to make their voices heard and hold DEP accountable for environmental protection and public safety.
Another point of discussion will be the PUC’s current review of its safety regulations regarding hazardous material pipelines – a review that apparently comes in response to ongoing problems with and concerns about Mariner East. Dinniman said the meeting will organize residents in submitting public comments on the rulemaking process. The deadline to do so is August 28.
The meeting is free and open to the public. The West Whiteland Township building is located at 101 Commerce Drive in Exton.