Mariner’s East Temporary Shutdown News Updates
Daily Local News: Wolf’s edict puts a stop to Mariner East construction
By: Bill Rettew
March 20, 2020
Rack up another victim of the coronavirus: Construction on the Mariner East 2 pipeline was temporarily halted Friday.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s Thursday night edict banning all “non-life-sustaining” business includes pipeline construction, according to Gregory A. Kauffman, director of Legislative Affairs at the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The governor’s ruling does not halt operations on the pipeline that are already in use, only those under construction. Workers from Sunoco and parent company Energy Transfer Partners were digging as part of laying the pipe Friday morning, but then quit.
Mariner East 2 will move hundreds of thousands of barrels of volatile liquid gases from the state’s Marcellus Shale regions to a facility in Marcus Hook, where they will be stored and eventually shipped mostly to overseas markets. The pipeline cuts 23 miles through the heart of Chester County and another 11 miles through western Delaware County. The multi-billion dollar project has sparked intense opposition from the community.
“The governor’s order applies to construction on Mariner East II and that construction work will cease,” Kauffman said. “constructed pipelines used for transmission of products including natural gas, natural gas liquids and petroleum products are permitted to continue under the order. Permittees are still required to comply with the terms and conditions of their environmental permits, including those applicable to cessation of operations. These measures exist to ensure the safety of the public and the environment.
“Residents may see some continued activity as Sunoco and other permittees work to shut down construction activities and stabilize these sites. This could include filling open trenches, securing drill sites, site stabilization to prevent soil erosion, and other activities to secure the sites. The governor, DEP, and other appropriate agencies are working closely with Sunoco and other permittees to ensure that sites are being stabilized according to their permit requirements and with appropriate care and speed. Any ongoing activities should be done in accordance with social distancing measures to the extent possible.”
State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19 West Whiteland, perhaps the most vehement pipeline opponent in the Legislature who called for construction to be halted earlier this week, was pleased to hear the news.
“The emails that I sent, and urged others to send, to the governor and the PUC have been successful,” Dinniman said. “The governor has shut down the construction of Mariner East, based on the very health, safety and community welfare concerns that we noted. Gov. Wolf realized, as we did, that the construction of a pipeline for the transporting of hazardous gases to Europe is not an essential service for the citizens of Pennsylvania.”
State Sen. Timothy Kearney, D-26 of Swarthmore responded prior to the shutdown. While listing three reasons to discontinue the project, he released the following statement:
1. Increased health risks near pipeline construction due to increased daytime population density as residents are now working and staying home.
2. Increased health risks near pipeline construction for residents over 60 and for those with pre-existing health conditions.
3. Increased health risks for pipeline workers who cannot conform to social distancing recommendations.
“The governor’s clear intention is to halt all activity deemed not essential to the Commonwealth,” Kearney wrote. “You must agree that there is nothing essential about the construction of this pipeline at this time.
“Our communities along this right of way are vulnerable even under the best of circumstances—they experience sinkholes, accidental line strikes to utility lines, and damaged water main lines and wells. Now, Incident Command and first responders must prioritize the deadly COVID-19 to protect public health and safety. I am unable to explain to our constituents why the PUC has not stopped active construction on Mariner East II when all current PennDOT and DGS construction projects have been halted.”
Sunoco/ET spokeswoman Lisa Coleman released the following statement regarding the construction shutdown:
“The safety of our employees, pipeline workers and the communities where we work and operate is always our top priority, but especially during this critical time. We are in the process of reviewing the governor’s order to determine the impact to our activities across Pennsylvania, so that we may continue the operation and maintenance of our assets in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.
“As we get further clarification, we will share updates on our activities. We do know that our pipeline systems and facilities that are in service have been deemed as life-sustaining activities and will continue to safely operate. We also know that maintenance activities on these assets will continue. This does include maintenance activities currently underway along the Mariner system.
“Additionally, we are working to safely comply with the governor’s order regarding the temporary suspension of our ongoing construction activities. This includes working in accordance with the exemption process outlined by the administration to give us the necessary time to safely suspend active construction over a reasonable period of time, as some activities have a longer shut down process. We will continue to work with regulators, such as the Pa. DEP and the PUC, to ensure that our sites are maintained in accordance with our permits during this temporary halt, and plan to engage with local stakeholders to share available updates.
“We have updated our protocols to remain diligent in keeping our employees, contractors and community residents safe and healthy while working on our property and within our pipeline rights-of-way.
“All of our employees and contractors have been directed to follow guidelines from the CDC and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to protect personal and public health and safety while working, including prevention measures such as:
● Implementing social distancing best practices;
● Implementing good hygiene and infection control practices for workers and regular cleaning and disinfecting of work surfaces, equipment and other materials;
● Restricting outside work site visitors and the number of personnel entering isolation areas;
● Requiring workers to stay home if they are sick or they have been in contact with someone who is sick; and
● Using additional engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices and personal protective equipment.
“We are committed to continuing the safe and reliable delivery of critical energy products to Pennsylvanians.”
Kurt Knaus, spokesman for Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance responded: “The health and safety of our workers is always paramount. We recognized that these are uncertain times. This crisis is unprecedented, as are the responses to stop the spread of this virus. We are all in this together and remain focused on getting back to work, when permitted, to deliver these energy resources safely and responsibly, while doing all we can to put our economy back to work for every Pennsylvanian.”
State Sen. Katie Muth, D-44, Royersford supported the governor’s ruling.
“After days of communications with my leadership in the Senate, the PUC, DEP, and the governor’s office, urging a temporary shutdown of the Mariner East project, I am grateful that the right decision was made,” Muth said. “My Senate district is ground zero for the COVID-19, and closing all non-essential businesses is imperative to complying with the aggressive social distancing measures ordered by our governor.
“The number one priority for every elected official should be to protect both our residents and workers from exposure and transmission. This is the only way to reduce harm and deaths from this pandemic.”
Food and Water Watch Action released a statement praising the governor’s decision.
“Food & Water Action is glad that Governor Wolf clarified that the dangerous Mariner East pipeline is in fact shutdown,” reads the statement. “We call on him to never allow construction to resume—it puts communities at risk and sacrifices the future of our society.
“We call on the state of Pennsylvania to put forward an economic and environmental recovery package; designed to mitigate the impacts of COVID, protect working people, and ensure that PA is a climate leader.”
A spokesperson for Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety released the following statement Friday afternoon:
“The governor’s office has now made clear that construction work on Sunoco’s proposed hazardous, highly volatile liquids export pipeline ‘will cease,’ apparently effective immediately. Sunoco’s defiant refusal to fully suspend all operations is a further display of reckless disregard for the safety of our communities and its own workers. Given the rapid spread of COVID-19 that any continued construction is likely to encourage, Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety calls on all state, county and local government agencies to take immediate measures to enforce the governor’s directive.
StateImpact Pennsylvania: Mariner East construction shut down by governor’s order
By: Susan Phillips
March 20, 2020
Following a day of confusion for residents living along the Mariner East pipeline in Delaware and Chester counties, pipeline builder Energy Transfer says construction of the line will shut down due to Gov. Tom Wolf’s order closing all non-essential operations in the state because of the coronavirus pandemic. Emergency repair work will continue.
In an emailed statement, Energy Transfer spokesperson Lisa Coleman said that while product will continue to flow through the lines, and that may require continued maintenance, the company is working to suspend construction on new sections of pipe.
“We are working to safely comply with the Governor’s order regarding the temporary suspension of our ongoing construction activities,” Coleman wrote. “This includes working in accordance with the exemption process outlined by the administration to give us the necessary time to safely suspend active construction over a reasonable period of time, as some activities have a longer shut down process.”
She said the company will work with regulators such as the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Utility Commission, “to ensure that our sites are maintained in accordance with our permits during this temporary halt,” and that the company will share updates with local stakeholders.
The Mariner East project includes three pipelines that carry natural gas liquids across the state to an export terminal in Delaware County — ME1, ME2 and ME2x. Construction on some parts of the line
were suspended for safety and compliance issues after sink holes developed in Chester County, but the Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission had recently signed off on renewed construction. This latest statewide shutdown of all non-essential businesses suspends that activity for now. Energy Transfer has been sending product through ME1, as well as ME2 during construction using re-worked sections of an older pipeline.
Wolf said Friday that his order to close non-essential businesses is intended to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. Under the order, construction projects, including “utility sub-system” construction sites, as well as “other heavy and civil engineering construction,” needed to shut down by 8 p.m. Thursday night.
But residents near Mariner East 2 in southeastern Pennsylvania woke up Friday to continued construction activity.
Eric Friedman, who lives near a pipeline construction site in Delaware County, said workers continued to lay pipe up until 9:30 p.m. on Thursday night.
“It appears that Sunoco has really accelerated its operations and whatever guardrails that existed before with regard to work hours or noise or respect for property, seems to have vanished with the minimal oversight they were receiving from the DEP and the PUC,” Friedman said.
In a statement issued Thursday, the PUC said oversight would continue during the coronavirus shut-down.
A message from Greg Kauffman, director of legislative affairs for the Department of Environmental Protection, that began circulating on social media seemed to indicate the work had to stop, but that the company needed to do maintenance before that occurred.
“Residents may see some continued activity as Sunoco and other permittees work to shutdown construction activities and stabilize these sites,” Kauffman wrote to lawmakers. “This could include filling open trenches, securing drill sites, site stabilization to prevent soil erosion, and other activities to secure the sites. The Governor, DEP, and other appropriate agencies are working closely with Sunoco and other permittees to ensure that sites are being stabilized according to their permit requirements and with appropriate care and speed. Any ongoing activities should be done in accordance with social distancing measures to the extent possible.”
The statement won praise from suburban Philadelphia lawmakers who had unsuccessfully pleaded with the Public Utility Commission to use its authority to shut down the site.
The Steamfitters union local 420, which represents workers on the pipeline site, said on Thursday the workers wanted to continue with the job.
On Friday, Kurt Knaus, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, which represents labor and chambers of commerce, says the organization supports the shut-down.
“We recognized that these are uncertain times,” Knaus said in a statement. “This crisis is unprecedented, as are the responses to stop the spread of this virus. We are all in this together and remain focused on getting back to work, when permitted, to deliver these energy resources safely and responsibly, while doing all we can to put our economy back to work for every Pennsylvanian.”
Patch: In Abrupt Reversal, Mariner East 2 Pipeline Work Ordered To Halt
By: Justin Heinze
March 20, 2020
Reversing a decision made by the PUC board on Thursday, construction on the Mariner East pipeline has been suspended, authorities announced Friday afternoon.
The pipeline is now classified as a “non-life-sustaining business.” The ruling of the PUC on Thursday had seemingly classified it as life-sustaining.
“I thank everyone who joined me in appealing to the administration to shut down this project as a pipeline carrying hazardous natural gas liquids for plastics manufacturing in Europe is clearly not a life-sustaining enterprise,” State Sen. Andy Dinniman said in a statement.
More to come.
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