PA DEP Flips on Marcus Hook Emission Permits

Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) seems to be caving to pressure from the extreme environmental group, the Clean Air Council (CAC) in regards to Sunoco’s permits for the Marcus Hook facility. The DEP is now demanding that all of Sunoco’s work there be evaluated under one single emissions permit.

When Sunoco filed for permits for the Marcus Hook facility originally, they were able to do so under separate permits for the different functions that take place there such as separating NGLs,  storing NGLs, and many more. The DEP did not have an interest in requiring a more complex project that issuing a single clean air permit would have initiated.

The CAC and their deep pockets have fought against the issue of the permits and challenged the DEP. The case was heard by the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB), who ruled in favor of the Clean Air Council. The EHB only required the DEP to work more on the permit, but now the DEP has completely changed sides.

While the DEP initially suggested it was considering filing an appeal to the EHB’s decision, it instead filed a brief in support of CAC, caving to the interest groups relentless pressure. An attorney for the DEP noted that allowing Sunoco to have multiple permits for the same plant could create a loophole and enable other energy companies to do the same in order to curtail broader environmental controls.

The DEP decision to give Sunoco’s applications a fresh look however, completely disregards their prior applications and approvals. Robert Palumos, an attorney representing Sunoco stated, “These decisions had been final. The Clean Air Council had an opportunity to appeal these decisions, and they chose not to.” Palumos is under the impression that those permits held a doctrine of administrative finality and called CAC’s act an improper collateral attack on approvals previously unchallenged.

This is an example of the problem with uncertainty related to regulatory bodies. Constantly rewriting rules is not a great way to encourage investments in the commonwealth.

The Marcus Hook facility is crucial to the success of Mariner East 1 & 2 pipelines because it is where NGLs are processed and loaded to then be distributed to customers. The Clean Air Council’s action against the facility is an attempt to over complicate and make the industry jump through unnecessary hoops to continue producing.