Two national experts with decades of combined experience in pipeline development and regulatory oversight are weighing in today in advance of Del-Chesco United for Public Safety’s release of a so-called “citizens risk assessment” against the Mariner East 2 pipeline project, which is 99 percent complete.
“The idea that risk exists is associated with everyday life. When you take a trip on an airplane or hop in a car, there are risks involved, but you don’t close the Pennsylvania Turnpike or shut down Philadelphia International Airport because of it,” said Brigham A. McCown, chairman of the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure.
“Measuring risk is already a key component to the regulatory process and can only be determined through collaboration between the pipeline company, contractors, workers and regulators, none of which were involved in Quest’s analysis. You’re more likely to win the lottery or be struck by lightning than to be affected by a pipeline incident,” said McCown, a former Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) administrator who also served as a senior advisor to the current U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
Throughout his career, McCown has endorsed pipeline projects, asked others to be re-engineered or modified, and publicly voted against a large natural gas project when it didn’t make sense.
Public concern has been raised about this “citizens risk assessment” because it is being completed by Quest, which previously produced a faulty qualitative risk analysis for the anti-pipeline group Middletown Coalition. That bias led Delaware County Council to deadlock on contracting with the firm for its own review. Moreover, Middletown Coalition and Del-Chesco United for Public Safety both have made it clear they want to shut down Mariner East, clouding any findings of the report to be released tonight.
“Generating a risk assessment in the manner that has been done here just proves that the study is intended to reach a predetermined outcome,” said Bill Godsey, owner and president of Geo Logic Environmental Services.
“Mariner East 2 has already completed the permitting process and is under regulatory scrutiny every day, both of which take the assessment of risk into account for HVL pipelines,” Godsey continued. “In other words, the permitting and regulatory processes are much more stringent than a petroleum pipeline assessment, so the idea that nobody has looked at these issues is not true. A study such as this, which only relies on publicly available information, falls far short of a credible analysis.”
Godsey is a former geologist for the Texas Railroad Commission, which has responsibility over pipeline safety, compliance and enforcement. He has written several pieces in Pennsylvania about the Mariner East pipeline projects, including articles in the Carlisle Sentinel and Delaware County Daily Times.