EXPLAINER | Pipelines: The new battleground over fracking
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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.

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The proposed PennEast pipeline would pass through the fields of the Christman farm, seen from the intersection of Station Street and Pohopoco Drive in Lehighton.

Federal appeals court strikes blow to PennEast pipeline project

The Third Circuit decision blocks PennEast from condemning state-owned land in New Jersey
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Crews work at the site of a sinkhole along the Mariner East pipeline route near the Pennsylvania State Police barracks on Route 1 in Delaware County on Thursday, April 25, 2019. Pipeline builder said there were no leaks and no pipelines were exposed.
Updated: September 3, 2019 | 4:24 pm

Criminal defense counsel represents DEP in Mariner East probe

The firm is among several chosen in 2018 by the state’s Office of General Counsel to provide legal services related to criminal procedures, if needed, to about 30 state agencies. Several environmental lawyers say they’ve never heard of the Department of Environmental Protection using a criminal defense attorney, and wonder why the agency felt the need to do so.

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In the distance, construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline at Raystown Lake Recreation Area in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

A work area near Shell's Falcon pipeline, Independence Township, Beaver County.

Beaver County agency says DEP should let it keep reviewing pipeline permits

State pulled local district's authority after 'poor' performance review
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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)

Federal pipeline safety regulators issue warning on floods and subsidence

The PHMSA advisory bulletin says pipeline incidents caused by erosion have increased in the eastern U.S.
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In this 2015 file photo, people demonstrate against fracking at Gov. Tom Wolf's inauguration. Eight people were arrested, but charges were later dismissed.

In Pa., an echo of the fracking boom: Prosecutors eye potential ‘environmental crimes.’ Here’s a closer look

The attorney general, and local district attorneys, are digging into the conduct of drillers and a pipeline company. Subpoena power allows them to get past non-disclosure agreements.

By Reid Frazier

Crews worked on Monday Jan. 21 to stabilize a new sinkhole that opened up at Lisa Drive, a suburban development in West Whiteland Township, Chester County where Sunoco operates its Mariner East pipelines.

Sunoco to restart Mariner East 1 after agreeing to new safety measures

PUC investigators end three-month shutdown prompted by latest sinkhole at Lisa Drive
By Jon Hurdle

Crews worked on Monday Jan. 21 to stabilize a new sinkhole that opened up at Lisa Drive, a suburban development in West Whiteland Township, Chester County where Sunoco operates its Mariner East pipelines.

Chester County investigation of pipeline builder Energy Transfer now includes grand jury

District attorney's probe of Mariner East project began in December
By Susan Phillips

The site of the Revolution Pipeline explosion that occurred in September 2018. Officials have said said heavy rain caused a landslide, leading to the explosion, which destroyed a house.
Updated: February 8, 2019 | 4:13 pm

PA DEP halts new pipeline permits for Mariner East, cites ongoing violations with Revolution pipeline

The DEP says Energy Transfer, which is the parent company of Sunoco, failed to fix problems after an explosion rocked Beaver County in September.

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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.
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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.

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