An administration law judge for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission today ordered Sunoco to “cease and desist all current operation, construction, including drilling activities on the Mariner East 1, 2 and Mariner East 2X pipeline” in West Whiteland Township. The judge also moved to shut down operations of Mariner East 1, ruling that she was “enjoining Respondent from operating Mariner East 1.” This ruling is a misguided decision that runs counter to other decisions regarding a pipeline that was thoroughly vetted and where 94 percent of the mainline construction is already complete.
This decision comes less than a month after the PUC itself unanimously ended a shutdown of the Mariner East 1 pipeline, after the commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement noted that it is “of the opinion that the integrity of the ME1 pipeline has not been compromised by the soil subsidence events that triggered this investigation, and consequently I&E does not oppose SPLP’s request to resume transportation service on its ME1 pipeline.”
The decision is also counter to a string of rulings at every level that have favored the pipeline development project. Among them: Commonwealth Court ruled against a lawsuit brought by the Clean Air Council earlier this month regarding eminent domain. Last year, a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel ruled in favor of Mariner East’s parent company, Sunoco Pipeline LP, upholding their status as a public utility. The Supreme Court also refused to hear an appeal of a Commonwealth Court case validating the utility status of the Sunoco pipeline. Huntingdon County Common Pleas Court Judge George Zanic ruled against efforts to delay construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection received more than 29,000 formal comments during five hearings held across the line as part of a review process that stretched more than three years and included dozens of other meetings and forums in communities across the state. The process has been rigorous and the requirements for construction remain strict.
If you are writing about the PUC administrative law judge’s decision, please find a statement from the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance. You can quote me, Kurt Knaus, as PEIA spokesman:
“Pipeline opponents have shopped the legal system long enough to finally find a judge who is more sympathetic to their cause than the facts. The fact is that this pipeline has undergone a rigorous review at every level, that every resident who wanted to be heard has been heard as part of the permitting and review process, and that the requirements in place for building this pipeline are stringent and solidly enforced to ensure safe and responsible development and operation. This decision affects the workers who are building and operating the lines, and it could have serious consequences for the state’s energy markets if the stoppage is protracted.”