As part of the “Mariner East 2: At what risk?” series, StateImpact Pennsylvania reports how pipeline opponents say Sunoco’s construction makes them worried about the volatile liquids flowing through the line. The data can be useful, but there may be more to the story, two experts said.
DEP: The Department That Regulates and Oversees Drilling
DEP is responsible for enforcing the state’s Oil and Gas Act, as well as state regulations on drinking water quality, air quality and the environmental health of rivers and streams.
DEP divides the state into six regions, and operates 19 district offices. It is currently headed by Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
Contamination has been found at sites including Montgomery, Bucks and Franklin counties. Pennsylvania doesn’t have health limits on the chemicals, and a Wolf administration spokesman said the governor wants the state to establish such limits.
In late 2016, the EPA told Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection that its water program was so under-staffed and under-funded, it was failing to enforce federal standards.
If approved by the PUC, the permit modifications would end a construction hiatus in the township ordered first by a PUC administrative judge and then partially upheld by the full PUC in June.
Applications for certain things in environmental justice areas — like landfills or coal mines — are on a “trigger permit list” and get more scrutiny from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Sunoco spilled 25-30 gallons of drilling fluid into Raystown Lake in December, and divers are now assessing impacts to the lake bottom.
Mapping data and Sunoco’s statements point to a 12-inch pipeline that would allow the company to fulfill customers’ orders for natural gas liquids while construction of the long-delayed Mariner East 2 pipeline is being completed.
Many of the spills are small, but pipeline opponents say their frequency indicates Sunoco shouldn’t be drilling there. The Department of Environmental Protection ordered that a geologist take another look at the area.