HARRISBURG (June 28, 2019) – Sunoco/Energy Transfer, the company behind the problematic and controversial Mariner East pipeline project, is in business with Aqua America, which provides water service to thousands of residents in Chester County, state Senator Andy Dinniman revealed today.
“It is important that citizens know the relationship between companies involved with the Mariner East pipeline,” Dinniman said.
According to Energy Transfer’s 2018 annual report, the company owns a 51 percent stake in Aqua – ETC Water solutions, characterized as a “joint venture that transports and supplies fresh water to natural gas producers drilling in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.”
In its 2018 Annual Report, Aqua mentioned the partnership, but not Energy Transfer by name, only noting that it is “a partner in a joint venture with a firm that operates natural gas pipelines and processing plants for the operation of a private pipeline system to supply raw water to natural gas well drilling operations in the Marcellus Shale in north-central Pennsylvania. We own 49 percent of the Joint Venture.”
In addition, construction of a 56-mile water pipeline and permitted intake on the Susquehanna River cost Aqua $109 million and its capital contributions to the partnership since inception in 2011 totaled $53.6 million in cash, according to the report.
Dinniman said it is vital for the public to know that one of the largest suppliers of water in the region appears to have a shared business interest with an energy and pipeline company that has damaged aquifers and residential wells in Chester County, forcing several local homeowners onto public water.
“Everything that has occurred so far on Mariner East has not been exactly transparent,” Dinniman said. On multiple occasions, we haven’t gotten immediate or straight answers from Energy Transfer, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, or the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. In some cases, we’ve been forced to file Right-to-Know requests to try to get the facts.”
“My constituents deserve to know all the facts, including that Aqua is in business with Energy Transfer and is supplying water for natural gas drilling and production. Keep in mind, those same highly volatile natural gas liquids are potentially being carried through or slated to be carried through the Mariner East pipeline project – a project that is known for damaging aquifers, destroying residential wells, causing sinkholes, and forcing residents from their homes along the way,” he added.
Dinniman said the development also raises some potential questions about the business relationship between the two companies.
“First, in addition to impacting an aquifer, destroying private wells, and creating some new customers for Aqua in the process, we know that there have been other concerns and close calls between Mariner East and Aqua. For instance, last summer an Aqua contractor installing a water main struck Mariner East 2. In addition, we’ve also heard reports of a number of local Aqua customers near the pipeline route who’ve had their water service interrupted during pipeline construction,” Dinniman said.
Second, Dinniman noted that Aqua, the nation’s second-largest water utility, continues to pursue acquisition of the Chester Water Authority (CWA). Aqua initially made an unsolicited offer to buy CWA that was rejected. The City of Chester recently issued a request for proposals to sell of CWA assets, but the issue of whether the city will retain or sell those assets is now the subject of several lawsuits.
The vast majority – 78 percent – of the CWA’s 42,000 customers reside in Delaware and Chester counties. In Chester County they’re located in 22 municipalities: Thornbury, Birmingham, Pennsbury, East Marlborough, Elk, Kennett Square, Kennett, London Grove, West Grove, Avondale, New Garden, Londonderry, Penn, New London, Franklin, London Britain, West Fallowfield, Upper Oxford, Lower Oxford, Oxford, East Nottingham and West Nottingham.
“The bottom line is that it appears that Energy Transfer owns the majority share of business partnership with Aqua – a business partnership that depends on both water and pipelines which has the potential to negatively impact some of Aqua’s existing customers down the line,” Dinniman said. “Meanwhile, Aqua is aggressively pursuing the CWA, a move that would apparently give them control of another large portion of Chester County.
“The bottom line is people have a right to know who is making the decisions that impact our land, water, and public utility services,” he added.