Attorney general launches investigation into pipeline

An announcement from the state Attorney General’s office Tuesday was made in response to growing concerns regarding the potential negative impacts of the continuing work on the Mariner East 2 pipeline, also known as the Pennsylvania Pipeline Project.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the launch of an investigation via his Twitter account following a referral made by Delaware County District Attorney Kat Copeland March 1.

“My office has opened an investigation into the Pennsylvania pipeline project known as Mariner East II,” Shapiro said. “We will leave no stone unturned in this case.”

He added that this action is part of a fight to protect Pennsylvanians.

The Mariner East 2 project was originally announced in early November 2014 and was designed to take a parallel path alongside its predecessor, the Mariner East 1, as it transmits natural gas liquids from western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near the Pennsylvania Delaware border.

The 350-mile long pipeline travels the length of the state from the western part of the Commonwealth to Marcus Hook in Delaware County, transecting Penn, Union, Shirley and Tell townships in Huntingdon County. The entire expanse traverses 17 counties in the southern tier of Pennsylvania.

The project’s progress has been marred by reported violations, most recently resulting in the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) placing a hold on all clean water permit approvals and modifications submitted by the project’s parent corporation, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), due to non-compliance. The hold was announced Feb. 8.

“ETC Northeast Pipeline, operated by ET, failed to comply with the Oct. 29, 2018, order issued following the explosion along the Revolution pipeline Sept. 10, 2018,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “This hold will continue until the operator corrects their violations to our satisfaction.”

In Chester County, where the pipeline has been identified as the likely cause behind explosions, sinkhole formation and stream pollution, the county’s district attorney launched a criminal investigation into Sunoco Pipeline. Last month, the county commissioners announced their interest in joining residents in their lawsuit against the pipeline company.

Within Huntingdon County, several inadvertent returns — the result of the bentonite clay and water mixture used to widen bore holes used in the course of horizontal directional drilling to run the pipeline beneath bodies of water entering a waterway through a geological fissure — have been reported.

At least four instances have been resulted in reports being filed with the DEP, July 6, 2017, Oct. 10, 2017, Dec. 20, 2017, and March 23, 2018, in areas including local wetlands, Aughwick Creek and Raystown Lake. One resulted in the loss of 4,100 gallons of drilling fluid beneath the surface of a Union Township property.

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