Pennsylvania

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Gov. Wolf says Mariner East 2 pipeline permits could be approved

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference at the Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Thursday, June 2, 2016.  Wolf recently told a group of Philadelphia area business people that DEP will approve permits for the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference at the Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Thursday, June 2, 2016. Wolf recently told a group of Philadelphia area business people that DEP will approve permits for the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline.

Responding to a question from a reporter at an event hosted by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia last week, Gov. Wolf indicated he supports approval of the required state permits to build the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline project. When questioned by 6abc anchor Matt O’Donnell about permit delays Wolf said “We’re working through that.” On further questioning Wolf affirmed that the pipeline project could still happen. There’s been no word from DEP on whether the agency has finished reviewing Sunoco’s updated applications and if those updates meet all of DEP’s requirements. Wolf spoke to the southeast Pennsylvania business community as part of an annual event hosted by the Chamber. The Chamber has advocated for the region to become an “energy hub,” where new pipelines full of Marcellus Shale gas could feed new manufacturing.

The bulk of the contents flowing through the Mariner East 2 pipeline would actually be shipped overseas to a plastics factory in Scotland. Sunoco Logistics has had to delay building the 350-mile pipeline because the company has not yet secured the necessary permits from DEP. The agency informed Sunoco last September that its applications for water crossing and earth disturbance permits were insufficient, outlining hundreds of issues that needed addressed in each of the 17 counties along the planned pipeline route. The “deficiency letters” sent to Sunoco by DEP galvanized pipeline opponents, generating an unprecedented number of public comments to the DEP on the obscure permits known as Chapter 102 and 105. The lack of permits caused Sunoco to push back its plans to begin pipeline construction. Originally, the pipeline was supposed to be completed by the end of 2016. Pipeline construction is now slated to be completed by the third quarter of 2017.

Wolf said the delay is related to local opposition rooted in a feeling that residents are not going to benefit from the gas. “The problem, I don’t think is at the state level, a lot of it is at the local level.”

No local permits are needed to build the pipeline, but residents along the pipeline’s path have opposed Sunoco’s plans, especially suburban Philadelphia communities in Delaware and Chester counties, which have passed resolutions questioning the pipeline’s safety. Individual residents are in court battling the company’s eminent domain takings. Some are unhappy with Sunoco’s payment, but others argue the pipeline does not serve a public good and the company should not have eminent domain authority.

Sunoco has responded to DEP’s deficiency letters, and the new applications are under review. Sunoco Logistics spokesman Jeff Shields says he has no information on when the company will hear back from DEP regarding the permits. A spokesman for DEP, Neil Shader, also said he has no knowledge of when a decision on the permits will be issued.

DEP’s deputy secretary for oil and gas management, Scott Perry, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this month that the agency’s policy is to not issue permits that have technical deficiencies. Perry told the newspaper he knew of only two instances in his career when permits were not issued due to recurring deficiencies.

Pipeline opponents have asked for a new public comment period based on the updated applications submitted by Sunoco in response to the deficiency letters. Shader said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell is considering that, but has not yet made a decision.

Eric Friedman, a homeowner who lives along the pipeline route, and who opposes the planned pipeline says a new public comment period is needed. He also said Wolf’s comments imply the pipeline company will get its permits no matter what the reviewers at DEP think. “I’m concerned the fix may be in,” he said. “I think the governor has decided that an appropriate time period will go by and the DEP will issue permits. This is not the way it’s supposed to work.”

A spokesman for Governor Wolf, J.J. Abbott, told StateImpact the DEP has full authority in making the decision.

“The decision at the end of the day is going to be made by the DEP, but DEP is making progress on the review of those applications.”

Abbott said he had no additional information about the timeline regarding DEP’s review of Sunoco’s permits. In an email, Abbott said Wolf supports new pipeline infrastructure.

“At the same time, the administration is committed to ensuring that the development of these resources is done in a way that protects the environment and the health of citizens,” wrote Abbott.
“Review of the permit application packages for large pipeline projects requires significant coordination at DEP and other agencies, as well as appropriate public participation and stakeholder engagement,” he said. “The state is making progress in reviewing these applications in a timely manner, despite limited resources, while ensuring that potential environmental impacts are thoroughly evaluated and mitigated.”

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Governor Wolf said the Mariner East 2 permits would be approved. He affirmed that they could be approved.

Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 is now scheduled to be completed by the third quarter of 2017, a previous version stated incorrectly that construction would begin in the third quarter.

Comments

  • esgerhart

    I am deeply disappointed in Governor Wolf’s lack of interest in protecting the environment and the citizens of Pennsylvania. The safety record of these pipelines is abysmal, and when they do get called out for violations, they are simply given a slap on the wrist. In addition, much of the public is under the mistaken impression that the product going through these proposed pipelines will somehow benefit them by lowering fuel prices. Not true—most of the product will be shipped to Scotland for processing into plastics. Another fallacy—the number of jobs these projects will provide. Any construction jobs will be temporary and would cease once the pipelines are installed. Perhaps, instead, these workers should be employed repairing and maintaining the infrastructure already in place. Finally, the fact that a member of Wolf’s staff is married to a person involved in the fossil fuel industry is troubling. There are so many compelling reasons why these projects should not be approved. Governor Wolf, stop cozying up to the fossil fuel industry and protect Pennsylvania.

    • Lisa DeSantis

      Cozying up?! That’s a polite way to put it.

    • Jeff Share

      you know nothing about pipelines

    • impaler

      Sunoco is already the most expensive gas in the area and they already have a refinery here! Goes to show Sunoco isnt here to benefit the locals at all.

      • esgerhart

        The products that would be carried in the ME2 is not gasoline…it can’t be used for vehicles at all. The propane that would be transported would have to be separated out from the ethane and butane that would also be carried…the current ME1 already carries more than enough to serve PA, making the ME2 unnecessary for PA needs.

        • impaler

          The point of my post was to show that Sunoco is not around to benefit the surrounding community. Their gas prices are through the roof. This pipeline, which I know isn’t light crude, will also not benefit the surrounding community refuting what Tom Wolf said that it would.

  • Lisa DeSantis

    Maybe Governor Wolf should read the PA Oil & Gas Act – We the people have rights, specific rights that ensure the protection of the land and water. These Crimes against humanity are killing us slowly with your fracking chemicals in our drinking water.

  • Fracked

    I love wolves but this wolf? BaaaaBaaaaBaaaaa

  • Steve Edwards

    This is the Democrat that played to the democratic base by promising education investment and challenged the fracking industry by proposing taxes on it. Instead, he taxed gasoline and cigarettes and is now assisting fracking. What a BS artist…

    • Guido

      Steve, the increase in gasoline prices is a result of the transportation bill that was passed during the Corbett administration with bi-partisan support. A surcharge is levied, over a five-year period, on distributors who pass it on at the pump. Monies go to road and infrastructure repair.

  • Greg Greenfield

    Why is the Governor interfering in the DEP’s technical review? If Sunoco’s applications are incomplete and deficient according to state law, they should be denied. Sunoco’s apparent inability to satisfy the statutory requirements of the Commonwealth is evidence that it has no business building new highly volatile liquids pipelines to export Pennsylvania natural resources.

  • JAEW

    Yes, local communities are against pipelines going through suburban backyards. It has nothing to do with money and everything about safety considering Sunoco’s abysmal record on leaks and water contamination.

  • Disgusted inPA

    While pipelines may be safer than transport by train, or truck, they do
    facilitate the possibility of disaster on a much larger scale. This
    transmission pipeline project, with a capability of half a million barrels of
    ethane a day, will run through heavy populated areas within feet of
    homes, schools, parks, and under swing sets and trampolines. You read
    stories of pipeline failures, invariably in farmers fields, where fires
    rage and homes 1,000 feet away are damaged. This pipeline will run
    though a narrow 50′ wide corridor alongside two 80 year old pipelines.
    Failure in one will surely cascade since no safety measures such as
    double walled pipes or blast protection are to be used to protect
    adjacent pipes. When a pipeline such as this fails in a “High
    Consequence Area” as PHMSA puts it, the consequences can only be high. I
    hope those who were cavalier in putting this through backyards face
    negligent homicide charges in the event of any failure resulting in death. Failure is only an accident when all
    reasonable safety precautions are taken. Sadly the Sunoco actuaries have
    determined that in the event of a disaster, my life, your life, and
    those of our neighbors are cheaper than building fault tolerant and safe
    infrastructure.

  • impaler

    “No local permits are needed to build the pipeline”

    You serious!? You need a permit to install a hot water heater, but not a frickin pipeline? Thats backwards DelCo for ya…

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