Delaware County Council looks into risk assessment of Mariner East 2 pipeline

  • Catalina Jaramillo/WHYY
Eric Friedman, right, who lives nearby, takes video of a Mariner East 2 pipeline work site at Shepherd Lane in Glen Mills on Wednesday. Because of permit violations, construction of Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline was halted Wednesday by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which said the company must meet certain conditions before it will be able to resume work.

Eric Friedman, right, who lives nearby, takes video of a Mariner East 2 pipeline work site at Shepherd Lane in Glen Mills on Wednesday. Delaware County Council says they are considering a risk assessment.

Delaware County Council is considering a risk assessment of the Mariner East natural gas liquids pipelines near homes, schools and businesses.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the council heard comments from more than two dozen residents concerned by the lack of a study establishing the worse case scenario in case of a pipeline accident and how to address it.

“We’ve asked the government in all levels to help us get that data,” said Eric Friedman, a spokesperson for the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety. “We’ve asked municipalities, we’ve asked the governor of Pennsylvania to do that — we’re now asking Delaware County Council to do it.”

The $2.5 billion, 350-mile long pipeline will carry ethane, butane and propane from the Marcellus Shale in western Pennsylvania to a Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County, to be exported to Sweden and Scotland for plastic manufacturing.

Gov. Tom Wolf has said he would support a risk assessment, but that the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission would have to conduct it. The PUC said in a statement that it “continues to consider how to best address public concerns about pipeline safety.”

Delaware County councilman Brian Zidek said Council has the authority to do a risk assessment.

“Those citizens who live in any sort of proximity to the pipeline deserve to know what the risks of living close to that pipeline might be,” Zidek said. “And our first responders, who we ask to respond to any leak of the pipeline or any exposure of the pipeline deserve to understand what the risks are as they run towards what could be a dangerous event.”

In a statement, Sunoco Pipeline spokesperson Jeffrey Shields said the Mariner East pipeline project was “thoroughly vetted” by federal, state, and local agencies over the past five years.

“Thousands of miles of pipelines have been transporting natural gas, propane and other materials safely through our Pennsylvania communities for nearly 100 years,” the statement said. “In fact, today, no fewer than 10 pipelines, ranging in size from 8- to 30-inches in diameter, are safely carrying natural gas and natural gas liquids like propane throughout Delaware County. They pass close to schools, hospitals, senior living facilities and homes.”

Friedman responded to the statement saying the word “safe” coming from Sunoco doesn’t mean much. What people want to know, he said, is risk, quantified in terms of consequences and probabilities.

“It’s like somebody who’s totalled three cars in the last year telling you they’re a very safe driver,” Friedman said. “We don’t want to know if you’re a safe operator, what we want to know is what are the chances that we’re going to lose an elementary school full of kids.”

On January the Department of Environmental Protection suspended construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which is already more than 18 months behind its original schedule, following permit violations and spills across Pennsylvania, including well water contamination for residents of a Chester County community last July.

Councilman Zidek said a vote on the risk assessment should probably come next Wednesday.

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