Riverkeeper Slapped Down in Federal Court

Seldom does a day go by when we find an anti-pipeline fringe activist castigating the Mariner East Pipeline and/or the DEP with false information. Late last week, these actions received a sharp reprimand by Judge Paul S. Diamond from the Federal Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania.

Judge Diamond ruled against the Delaware Riverkeeper in what is just the latest frivolous lawsuit filed by anti-pipeliners. To-date, it is important to note that such suits have yet to produce a favorable ruling for the plaintiffs yet they have been successful at clogging up the courts dockets, costing Commonwealth money. All to get slapped down each and every time.

The basis of this latest case brought by the Delaware Riverkeeper was whether Mariner East needed to get a Clean Water Permit, similar to the Chapter 102 and 105 DEP permits legally obtained by the pipeline developer. As Judge Diamond says in his ruling, “the Department (DEP) has not issued any NPDES permits for pipeline projects since Congress exempted them in 2005.” Further, “Plaintiffs’ expert testified that he was unaware of DEP ever issuing an NPDES stormwater permit for a pipeline project, that he could not name which (if any) NPDES permit would be appropriate for IRs, and that he knew of no substantive differences between E&S and NPDES permits.”

In other words, the Delaware Riverkeeper’s expert spilled the beans. The Riverkeeper’s intention was to push for unnecessary permits in order to delay and negatively impact the project. Fortunately, the judge saw this and ruled based on the law and existing precedent.

It’s also puzzling that the Delaware Riverkeeper failed to raise the need for this permit until after construction had commenced and even after entering into an agreement with the company to mitigate concerns around inadvertent returns. Sunoco made a good faith attempt to be a good community partner however, just like when dealing with a child, you try to do the right thing but the child just wants more.

Judge Diamond’s conclusion is perhaps the most damning interpretation of the Delaware Riverkeeper’s argument against Mariner East:

In sum, it is evident that the real object of Plaintiffs’ ire is DEP for allowing Sunoco to construct ME2. I have closely reviewed DEP’s determinations and concluded that they are not only entitled to deference, they are correct. ME2’s construction has been subject to the fullest regulation. Neither the law nor the courts may penalize Sunoco for acceding to that regulation.

The ruling sums up what we have always known. These anti-pipeline groups and their supporters such as Andy Dinniman care less about the law and more about their own personal interests. As a lawmaker, Sen. Dinniman has the ability to change the Commonwealth’s laws to meet his alternative worldview, but he has proven to be nothing more than a backbencher who prefers to talk more than getting things done.