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A judge's ruling allows opponents of the Mariner East 2 pipeline to argue their case in court.

Pipelines: The new battleground over fracking

Background

Pipeline wars are raging in Pennsylvania, where production is high and pipeline capacity is low. Marcellus Shale gas has the potential to alter the landscape of the global energy market. But right now, a shortage of pipelines to get that gas from the wellheads to consumers means rock bottom prices for producers, who are eager to dig new trenches. Activists opposed to more drilling see pipeline construction as the new battleground over fracking.

In our six-part series on Pennsylvania’s pipeline building boom, StateImpact examines who wins and who loses in the next phase of the natural gas rush.

Part One: Pipelines: The new battleground over fracking

Pennsylvania’s pipeline building boom could expand the nation’s and perhaps the world’s, supply of natural gas. This boom includes an estimated 4,600 miles of new interstate pipes, tunneling under Pennsylvania’s farms, wetlands, waterways, and backyards.

Part Two: Pipelines’ path remains a risky mystery beneath our feet 

Pipeline companies know exactly the routes for all the pipelines they maintain or plan to build, but they aren’t required to share that information with the public in a post-9/11 world. Even when it comes to interstate pipelines, the large ones that carry lots of gas at high pressure across multiple states, those are only required to be mapped within 500 feet of accuracy.

Part Three: Unmapped, unregulated maze of rural pipelines poses hidden risks

Pennsylvania expects the industry to add 20-25,000 miles of gathering lines, which are pipelines that take gas from wellheads to a larger transmission line or gas processing facility. Most of these so-called “class one” lines will be in rural areas and no state, federal or local authority oversees them. This lack of regulation can lead to dangerous consequences.

Part Four: In New Jersey, open space sacrificed for cheaper gas

Industry says these large interstate pipelines will benefit rate-payers, especially those in areas where energy costs are high like New York and Boston, and feed cleaner-burning fuel to large East Coast power plants. But the lines cut through areas of rare open space in New Jersey, where land has been preserved with public dollars, forcing residents to weigh the environmental costs of moving natural gas to the marketplace.

Part Five: New pipeline could mean tax bonanza for NJ towns, but for Pa.? Not so much 

Pipeline builders also say local communities will benefit from new jobs and tax dollars. But those tax benefits aren’t equal across state lines and while New Jersey could reap millions of dollars a year in new revenue, Pennsylvania could be leaving millions of dollars on the table.

Part Six: Towns take on gas industry, at their own peril 

Local communities across the state increasingly see themselves as the losers. Faced with little influence over interstate pipeline construction, some are trying to stop the surge in oil and gas development by embracing a novel legal tactic: community-based rights ordinances. It’s a strategy that carries risks.

Latest Posts

DEP officials won’t answer lawmakers’ questions on pipeline documents

Pennsylvania officials declined on Wednesday to answer lawmakers’ questions on documents indicating that the state had issued permits for the Mariner East 2 pipeline before ensuring that it met all regulatory requirements. A bipartisan group of three lawmakers met with three top officials from the Department of Environmental Protection in Harrisburg to discuss public concerns [...]

Federal court dismisses suit charging FERC with bias

This story has been updated with a comment from the PennEast Pipeline company. A federal court has thrown out a case brought by environmentalists that charged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with bias in pipeline cases. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed a federal lawsuit last year, alleging FERC favored industry in disputed pipeline cases. On [...]

Federal judge rejects permits challenge in new setback to Constitution Pipeline

A federal judge dealt the latest blow to the planned Constitution Pipeline when he rejected the builder’s argument that it would be injured by having to obtain certain state permits to construct the natural gas pipeline from Northeast Pennsylvania to New York State. Judge Norman Mordue of the Northern District of New York said the [...]

Sunoco rejects township’s Mariner East complaint to PUC

Sunoco told the Public Utility Commission that its actions regarding a section of the Mariner East 1 pipeline does not subject residents of a Chester County township to “clear and present danger.” The township had filed a complaint with the PUC alleging the company violated an agreement over the installation of a valve for its [...]

Mariner East 2 critics say any leak could cause ‘catastrophe’ in Delco

Opponents of the planned Mariner East 2 pipeline warned on Monday of an “unprecedented catastrophe” if the pipeline leaks, subjecting residents of a Delaware County township to the risk of burns from a flammable vapor cloud that could ignite amid schools, homes and businesses. The Middletown Coalition for Community Safety, an anti-pipeline group, released an [...]

DEP approved Mariner East 2 permits despite deficiencies, documents show

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection issued final permits for the Mariner East 2 pipeline even though the pipeline’s builder, Sunoco Logistics, had not met all regulatory requirements at the time of issuance, DEP documents show. The state’s top environmental regulator acknowledged that the company’s applications for permits on water crossings and soil disturbance contained many [...]

Sunoco rejects township’s attempt to block valve for Mariner East 2

Sunoco Logistics rejected an attempt by a Chester County township to block construction of a valve for its Mariner East 2 pipeline, saying the project is a public utility that may not be regulated by municipalities. West Goshen Township in the western suburbs of Philadelphia wrote to the company last month denying it permission to [...]

PSEG Power could pull out of PennEast pipeline project

This story is from our partner NJ Spotlight. PSEG Power is exploring a sale of its share of the PennEast pipeline, a 118-mile project that has stirred widespread opposition in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania and encountered numerous regulatory setbacks. A spokesman for the Newark company acknowledged the discussions, saying it is considering sale of [...]

Townships accused of failing to enforce ordinances over Mariner East 2

Opponents of the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline project are accusing two townships along the route of failing to enforce ordinances that would be violated by the pipeline in those locations. West Goshen Township in Chester County and Thornbury Township in Delaware County have provisions in their zoning ordinances that could force the pipeline’s builder, [...]

Judge denies latest call to halt Mariner East 2 construction

A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday rejected a request by opponents of the Mariner East 2 pipeline to reconsider his earlier denial of an order that could have halted construction of the line. Judge Bernard Labuskes of the Environmental Hearing Board said Clean Air Council and two other environmental groups had not presented information in their [...]

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