State Senator Andy Dinniman released the following statement on the appearance of a new sinkhole that exposed the Mariner East 1 pipeline off Lisa Drive in West Whiteland Township:
“Remember, this is the same pipeline, in the same area that I asked the PUC to shut down due to safety concerns over the summer. Their own administrative law judge (Elizabeth Barnes) agreed, writing in her opinion and order, ‘I believe given the release and accident history of Sunoco, there is a grave risk to the rupture of Mariner East 1 (ME1) . . .”
Yet, a month later, in June, the full PUC voted 3-2 in a split decision to allow ME1 to resume operation. In that opinion and order, the PUC asserted, ‘While the record contains accounts of Sunoco’s mishaps in other jurisdictions and other pipelines, there is no new, credible evidence to support a finding that the continued operation of ME1 poses a clear and present danger to life or property in West Whiteland Township.’
It’s also important to note that, the PUC took the testimony and report of Sunoco’s own geological expert at face value in making that statement and allowing ME1 to resume operation.
Now, ME1 is again exposed due to a sinkhole on Lisa Drive and it is most certainly a very real and very significant potential safety threat. To quote Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
Last night, as I met with residents on Lisa Drive to see the site of the latest sinkhole for myself, I couldn’t help but wonder how we could have any confidence whatsoever left in the PUC when it comes to the safety of this pipeline. The fact that they overturned their own judge’s decision and allowed its operation to continue has eroded any lingering hope or faith that they will protect the public. To say we’re disappointed, disillusioned, disheartened, and downright angry at both the PUC and Sunoco is a gross understatement.
How many more sinkholes and exposed pipelines will there be? How many times will the safety of our residents and communities be jeopardized before we pull the plug on this project? And how many times is this company is going to be permitted to risk a potentially life-threatening catastrophe before something goes seriously and tragically wrong? In fact, Mariner East passes more than 40 schools – many of them in Chester County – within its blast zone.
Although Sunoco had no choice but to shut down ME1, one wonders if there is still product in the line. And all the while, Sunoco continues to operate the antiquated 12-inch line in the same area.
Clearly, the PUC process is broken when it comes to pipeline safety. We said from day one that this is a geologically questionable area where pipelines shouldn’t be placed. And it seems like sinkholes and other issues are frequently exacerbated by severe weather and significant precipitation.
The entire Mariner East project should be shut down until a review independent of Sunoco and PUC has been completed. The PUC process itself is in dire need of reexamination and revamping. And we must pass strong pipeline safety legislation now. Currently, there is no real, meaningful and effective pipeline regulatory process in the Commonwealth.
Pennsylvania has already seen a pipeline rupture in rural Beaver County. I don’t want to see one here in suburban Chester County where pipelines are mere feet from homes, parks, schools, shopping centers, rail lines, and major thoroughfares.
The time for such an independent review is now.”