WEST CHESTER (April 3) – State Senator Andy Dinniman said today that Sunoco’s offer to relocate residents where drilling for the Mariner East pipeline project has apparently caused multiple sinkholes in recent weeks is just more of the same from the corporate giant.
“It’s more of the same. Sunoco doesn’t seem to care about residents, their families, their homes, our environment or our communities here in Chester County,” Dinniman said. “If Sunoco did a thorough geologic study the first time around, the Public Utility Commission wouldn’t have required them to go back and do it again now.”
Sunoco sent letters to residents of Lisa Drive in West Whiteland on March 30 offering to cover their costs of relocation and provide a food allowance for an estimated four to six weeks while it investigates that geophysical conditions behind their homes, according to the reports. Preparatory work was reportedly scheduled to begin just two days later, on April 2.
The offer comes weeks after the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) suspended operations of Sunoco’s Mariner East I pipeline. The 80-year-old pipeline was temporarily shut down by emergency order after it was exposed at a site on Lisa Drive by a sinkhole that apparently developed as a result of Sunoco’s drilling the Mariner East II pipeline.
In granting the emergency suspension, PUC Chairwoman Gladys Brown wrote, “I agree with the BIE (Bureau of Inspection and Enforcement) that permitting continued flow of hazardous liquids through the ME1 pipeline without proper steps to ensure the integrity of the pipeline could have catastrophic results impacting the public.”
As a result of that order, Sunoco must conduct extensive geophysical and seismic tests, analysis, and reevaluations related to horizontal direct drilling activities at the Lisa Drive site.
“I can’t say I’m surprised because Sunoco has seemed to operate with impunity practically throughout this entire process,” Dinniman said. “They failed to do their due diligence from the get-go and were only reined in when their drilling operations, according to the PUC, risked a near catastrophe. Now, they waited until the Easter and Passover weekend to offer to move families out of their homes so they can investigate just how badly they apparently planned this project.”
Mariner East I, which dates back to the 1930s, originally carried petroleum from Marcus Hook west. Today, it is permitted to carry liquid propane, butane, and ethane in the opposite direction.
Mariner East II largely shares the original easement of Mariner East I and its construction has been plagued with problems for months, including the contamination of almost two-dozen wells, damage to aquifers, and the development of multiple sinkholes that threaten private homes. Two of the sinkholes are within close proximity of Amtrak’s Keystone Line.
“One of the biggest problems with this project has been that various state and federal agencies have been operating in silos. Although they share a patchwork of responsibility for oversight of various aspects of the pipeline project, communication has been anything but seamless,” Dinniman said. “This was clear at the recent joint hearing of the Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy and Consumer Protection and Licensure Committees on pipeline safety and needs to be rectified through an improved and integrated regulatory process.”