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Opponents of the Mariner East pipeline project accused officials of failing to inform the public of a leak from the Mariner East 1 line on April 1.

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

Sunoco seeks injunction against anti-pipeline family and supporters in Huntingdon County

Sunoco Pipeline has asked a Huntingdon County judge to order a family protesting the Mariner East 2 pipeline, and their supporters, to refrain from obstructing pipeline construction or face arrest. It’s the latest legal maneuver in a stand-off that has pitted the pipeline company against the Gerhart family. The company is now a subsidiary of [...]

Commonwealth Court rejects appeal on Mariner East 2 pipeline

A Huntingdon County family who have become vocal opponents of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline project has lost an appeal to Commonwealth Court over the company’s taking of their land through eminent domain. The appeal by Stephen and Ellen Gerhart of Union Township is just one of about a dozen cases pending before the Commonwealth [...]

Sunoco’s pipeline construction releases drilling mud into Delco Creek

Pipeline construction of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 has caused three separate releases of drilling mud in May, with two incidents resulting in a combined total of 575 gallons of bentonite clay entering Chester Creek in Brookhaven, Delaware County, according to Sunoco Pipeline spokesman Jeff Shields. Bentonite is a non-toxic substance commonly used as a lubricant [...]

Trump nominates PA PUC Commissioner Rob Powelson to FERC

President Donald Trump has nominated Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner Rob Powelson to fill a vacancy on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which oversees interstate pipeline projects. Powelson, who also serves as the president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, recently compared anti-pipeline activists to jihadists, a statement he later walked back. “The jihad [...]

Congress hears testimony on fast-tracking pipeline projects

Although anti-pipeline activists decry the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the agency that never met a pipeline project it wouldn’t approve, the natural gas industry says the regulatory process led by FERC is facing longer delays. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce heard testimony Wednesday about a proposal to speed-up that process, which currently [...]

Delco zoning board refuses to block Mariner East 2 pipeline

The latest local effort to block the Mariner East 2 pipeline failed late Monday when a zoning panel in Delaware County denied an appeal against three permits that have allowed its construction. Thornbury Township’s Zoning Hearing Board turned down a request by a local homeowners association to withdraw the permits to install a fence, a utility pole and [...]

Huntingdon County judge grants Sunoco authority to have protesting landowners arrested

Huntingdon County residents protesting the construction of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline across their land now face arrest on their own property due to a rarely imposed court order known as a “writ of possession.” Common Pleas Court judge George Zanic signed the order last week, which Sunoco had sought as an “emergency measure” in [...]

Northeast needs more gas pipelines, says new report

A new report out this week from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce argues the northeastern United States needs more natural gas pipelines. If no new pipelines were built, it could cost the region over 78,000 jobs and $7.6 billion in GDP by the year 2020, the report finds. It is the fifth in a series of [...]

Sunoco’s Mariner East 1 pipeline leaked ethane and propane in Berks County, records show

Sunoco’s Mariner East 1 natural gas liquids pipeline leaked about 20 barrels of ethane and propane near Morgantown, Berks County, on April 1, the company said on Thursday. The leak, at 5530 Morgantown Road, Morgantown, Pa., did not reach water sources, according to the US Coastguard’s National Response Center, which records spills of hazardous materials [...]

Regulators to seek ways of boosting natural gas service in rural communities

A national investigation by utility regulators into ways of increasing natural gas supplies to under-served or un-served areas appears to be ignoring alternative energy sources and may be exposing those communities to high maintenance costs for new pipelines, critics said. Utility regulators are forming a task force to look at ways of supplying more gas [...]

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