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Friday, July 21, 2017

DEP Releases Details of Mariner East 2 Oversight Ongoing investigations into existing and potential violations

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has released details of oversight activities for the Sunoco Mariner East 2 Pipeline Project (ME2).
To date, DEP has issued 4 Notices of Violation to Sunoco for the project. Additionally, one Consent Order and Agreement has been executed, with a penalty of $87,600 for a violation that impacted a wetland area next to Interstate 81 in Cumberland County. A detailed list of incidents related to construction of the pipeline will be available early next week, and will be updated weekly on the DEP website http://www.dep.pa.gov/Business/ProgramIntegration/Pennsylvania-Pipeline-Portal/Pages/Mariner-East-II.aspx.

“With so much concern about the Mariner East 2 pipeline the public needs to know that DEP is taking its oversight and regulatory enforcement role seriously,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “This project has raised questions about public health and the health of the environment, and it is important to be transparent about the issues that have arisen over the course of the construction.”

Governor Wolf has also voiced his concerns for the project, saying “I have heard concerns directly from local legislators, including in-person meetings where they have shared concerns of their constituents, along with residents who have written and called my office. I have directed DEP to do what they are legally able and feel is appropriate to ensure the operator is held accountable to addressing these incidents and taking additional steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring.”

“In addition to these immediate steps and penalties, DEP has numerousinvestigations of incidents underway, and anticipates additional enforcement actions against Sunoco for these violations,” said McDonnell. “I want to be clear: this is not the end of the road, but the beginning, and I want the people of Pennsylvania to know and be confident that DEP is exercising the fullest extent of our regulatory authority for this project.”

Notices of Violation were issued to Sunoco in 2 of the 17 counties along the pipeline route for impacts to waters of the commonwealth from inadvertent returns associated with the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) operations. Violations involving “inadvertent returns” refer to incidents in the course of HDD in which the drilling fluid, a mix of water and bentonite clay used to lubricate the drill bit. The drilling fluid is non-toxic and is not expected to have any lasting effects on impacted waters of the commonwealth. The permits DEP issued specifically limit the use of additives in drilling fluids to an approved list that complies with drinking water standards.

All reported inadvertent returns are inspected by DEP or county conservation districts. As part of the permitting process Sunoco was required and DEP approved a plan for responding to inadvertent returns. Additionally, DEP included special conditions in the permits related to how Sunoco would address inadvertent returns. The permit requires Sunoco to visually monitor the ground surface along the path of the HDD while drilling operations are occurring. If an inadvertent return is discovered, then drilling shall immediately cease. DEP has no evidence at this time that Sunoco has not complied with this permit condition.

Pennsylvania law does not regulate private drinking water well construction or require private well owners to register their wells. Therefore, there is no comprehensive or reliable database or resource related to the location or condition of private water wells for DEP to utilize to protect private water supplies during permitting. Nonetheless, DEP evaluated potential impacts to private water supplies as part of normal permit application review process. For the ME2 permits, DEP included special conditions related to private drinking water wells that go beyond existing state law requirements. The permits are among the most stringent DEP has ever issued for this type of construction activity related to protection of private drinking water wells.

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