WEST CHESTER, Pa. (Oct. 23, 2019) — A small group of pipeline opponents from Chester and Delaware counties is waging a last-ditch effort to petition an administrative law judge to shut down the legally permitted Mariner East pipeline network in proceedings scheduled before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in West Chester Wednesday and Thursday.
The case is being heard by Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth Barnes, who at one point last year sided with opponents in an appeal and issued a ruling that shut down Mariner East 1 and halted construction of Mariner East 2, before that ruling was overturned by the full PUC. Later that same year, however, the same judge ruled against opponents on another appeal.
“The facts are clear: Mariner East is safe, legally permitted, and in compliance with strict requirements for pipeline construction and operation,” said Kurt Knaus, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance. “In fact, even the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has acknowledged that its ‘permits are among the most stringent DEP has ever issued for this type of construction activity.’”
PEIA is a multi-faceted, broad-based, statewide coalition comprising labor, agriculture, conservation groups, manufacturers, and other industrial and business interests that have pushed for more than four years for the safe, responsible development of pipelines and energy infrastructure projects in the commonwealth.
“This latest appeal is opponents’ last-ditch effort to shut down one pipeline that is operating safely and halt construction of another that is about 98 percent completed,” Knaus said. “You have a handful of people who opposed a project that benefits so many, and that so many others really, truly support and want. This pipeline is good news for businesses that will benefit from its construction and operation, and for the workers who directly benefit from the resurgence that this infrastructure continues to bring to our state.”
Among some of the key facts:
- REGULATIONS: Projects like this undergo immense regulatory and public scrutiny, with special conditions for Mariner East that go beyond existing state law requirements, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. DEP spent more than 20,000 hours on project permits and responded to 29,000 comments after a series of statewide public hearings as part of a review process that stretched more than three years. That’s why, according to the department, the “permits are among the most stringent DEP has ever issued for this type of construction activity.”
- CONSTRUCTION: Pipelines must adhere to strict state and federal regulation throughout pipeline construction, testing and infrastructure replacement to ensure system integrity. Additionally, the Mariner East 2 pipeline is being constructed by Pennsylvania’s skilled union labor, which requires safety training and high-quality standards of performance for its work.
- SAFETY: Study after study shows that pipelines are the safest, most efficient way to transport energy resources. According to data collected by the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the natural gas delivery system is actually the safest form of energy delivery in the country. The fact is that if this pipeline is halted, this product will be getting to market via trucks and rail that pass through communities like those in Chester and Delaware counties.
- RISK ASSESSMENT: In November, Delaware County released the results of its own risk assessment. Among its findings: living near Mariner East is significantly safer than other common activities. Specifically, it found that “a person is 20 times more likely to die from a traffic accident or fall from stairs and 35 times more likely to die from a house fire than from an incident involving the Mariner East 2 pipeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” That report confirmed project safety.
- EMERGENCY RESPONSE: The builder of the pipeline annually offers awareness and emergency response training sessions with local first responders, officials and excavators across its pipeline system. A supplemental training effort, the Mariner Emergency Responder Outreach (MERO) program, provided responders with additional guidance on hazardous materials and public safety sources. The MERO program has trained 2,350 individuals since 2013 across the pipeline’s entire footprint.
- OVERSIGHT: The Public Utility Commission has been an effective and tireless watchdog, as its actions prove. The PUC earlier upheld an administrative law judge’s decision against opponents’ claims that the Mariner East projects are unsafe and need to be stopped.
- LEGAL CHALLENGES: Courts at every level in Pennsylvania continue to strike down or rule against frivolous lawsuits brought against the project with no other aim other than stalling or halting construction. Most recently, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court reversed a June 2018 order that resulted from a taxpayer-funded lawsuit brought by Sen. Andy Dinniman, finding the senator lacked either legislative or personal standing to file his complaint. It was just the latest in a string of rulings that favor of the pipeline development project.
- ECONOMICS: Nearly 98 percent fully complete now, Mariner East 2 represents one of the biggest economic opportunities Pennsylvania has seen in generations — a $9.1 billion investment that will support over 57,000 jobs and generate an estimated $122 million to the state during construction.
For more than four years, the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance has advocated for the safe, responsible development of critical infrastructure. For more information:
Kurt Knaus, Spokesman
Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance
PEIA is a broad-based coalition of labor, agriculture, manufacturing and other business interests statewide that support private investment in pipeline and other energy infrastructure developments.