EXPLAINER | Pipelines: The new battleground over fracking
200 stories

Pipelines: The new battleground over fracking

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 stories


Mariner East 2 pipeline construction crews work in the backyards of homes on Lisa Drive in West Whiteland Township, Chester County, on May 2. Sinkholes that opened in the area prompted the state's Public Utility Commission to order that an existing pipeline nearby, the Mariner East 1, be shut down until it could be determined that the sinkholes didn't threaten its safety. PUC on May 3 approved a re-start of Mariner East 1.
Updated: October 18, 2018 | 4:53 pm

Sunoco: Mariner East 2 delayed to 2020, so company will join three pipes as substitute

The cross-state natural gas liquids pipeline Mariner East 2 was supposed to begin operation by the end of September. Now, the company has come up with a workaround after acknowledging another lengthy delay in its pipeline project.

By Jon Hurdle

Workers installing the Mariner East 2 pipeline August 22, 2018 in Lebanon County. Energy Transfer Partners, parent company of Sunoco Logistics, had told investors that the line would be operational by the end of September. But regulatory issues have held it up.

‘Regulatory issues’ delay opening of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline

The company missed its deadline of opening the line by the end of September. The Public Utility Commission said there are several issues with the project that still need to be resolved.

By Jon Hurdle

Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Mariner East 2 pipeline builder, Sunoco, works at Snitz Creek in West Cornwall Township, Lebanon County after a drilling mud spill during the summer.

Mariner East 2: Sunoco’s incidents, fines and shutdowns fuel residents’ safety concerns

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.

By Jon Hurdle

On a tour of the energy facilities in Salem Township, Forbes Road Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Rosatti stops at a Mariner East 2 construction site. The Slickville Volunteer Fire Department would have jurisdiction over an incident here, but the Forbes Road department -- just six miles south -- would provide mutual aid, Rosatti said.

First responders near pipeline prep for an unlikely event: ‘One hell of a boom’

As part of the “Mariner East 2: At what risk?” series, StateImpact Pennsylvania reports how firefighters are trained to respond to a pipeline explosion, though shutting the line down would be the company’s responsibility. Energy Transfer Partners says most of Mariner East 2’s valves can be controlled remotely.

By Amy Sisk

This February 2018 photo shows the most recent proposed route for the PennEast pipeline through Albertine Anthony's farm in Palmerton, Pennsylvania. The route cuts through a triangle of unfarmed wetland that is the source of Anthony's home water supply.
Updated: September 13, 2018 | 4:36 pm

FERC urged to block tree-cutting before final decisions on PennEast pipeline

The Delaware River Basin Commission said it thinks the company might want to start clearing trees before its project gets all necessary approvals. In part, the commission is worried about problems that could occur if the pipeline never gets built.

By Jon Hurdle

A sign marking the right of way for the Mariner East pipeline in Lebanon County.
Updated: September 10, 2018 | 8:09 pm

Natural gas pipeline blast in Beaver County prompts evacuation

An Energy Transfer Partners pipeline exploded this morning, destroying one home, no injuries reported
By Susan Phillips and Reid Frazier

An environmental clean-up crew works to remove gasoline fuel from an ETP pipeline spill in Darby creek in Tinicum Township, Pa. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Sunoco’s 12-inch pipeline leaked 33,000 gallons of gasoline into creek, PHMSA says

Ageing pipeline, which has leaked before, will be used to temporarily carry natural gas liquids
By Jon Hurdle

Construction on the Mariner East 2 pipeline has faced myriad problems, including damaged water supplies and sinkholes in a residential neighborhood in Chester County.

Risk assessment quantifies Mariner East hazards for residents in two counties

The study says a pipeline “release” such as a small leak or a major rupture was likely to occur once every 79 years along a 35-mile stretch of pipeline such as that through Chester and Delaware counties.

By Jon Hurdle

 Mariner East 2 pipeline work in Delaware County in July. Sunoco says the line is to be operational by the end of September.

Three arrested at Mariner East 2 pipeline protest near Delaware County school

Women charged with criminal trespass after refusing to leave pipeline easement
By Jon Hurdle

A Mariner East 2 pipeline construction  site is shown off Valley Road near Media, Pa., on Aug. 22. The site is close to where Sunoco is digging up a section of the pipeline after discovering a coating issue that needed to be fixed.

Sunoco replaces section of Mariner East 2 because of flaws in pipeline coating

The company said the work in Delaware County is a preventative measure. An independent pipeline consultant said it’s ‘rare’ that a line is dug up and replaced like this.

By Jon Hurdle
LOAD MORE