Monthly Archives: January 2018

Blume Stops Sunoco

Rolfe Blume of Upper Frankford Township near Carlisle, Pennsylvania operates a gun shop on his property and supports the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. He also has vigorously fought for 5th Amendment property rights. His challenge to the Mariner East 2 pipeline as being for private enterprise, rather than for a public purpose, is pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Recently his multiple complaints to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection helped convince the Department to suspend the pipeline construction.

Man sees halt in pipeline construction as small victory

“They ruined my place, they ruined my life, they ruined everything. There is so much stuff they’re doing wrong, it’s a danger to people and property. It should have been stopped a long time ago.” – Rolfe Blume

Construction of the pipeline planned to ship liquid natural gas across the state has been put on hold over multiple violations, and that comes as no surprise to one Cumberland County man.

“I haven’t had water since June,” said Rolfe Blume of Upper Frankford Township.

Since the beginning of construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which passes through his property, Blume said his well water has been infected with a yellow slime.

“I can’t cook, I can’t drink it. It’s a mess,” he said.

Though Blume’s farm was not listed on the Department of Environmental Protection’s order that temporarily halted construction of the pipeline, some Cumberland County homes have reported similar issues.

Rolfe Blume of Upper Frankford Township, above, is pleased to see construction halted on the Mariner East 2 pipeline. He said it has impacted his well and ruined his property. Pipeline construction stopped after a state Department of Environmental Protection order. Some of those violations were in Silver Spring Township, where pipe and construction equipment still sit, waiting to resume work.

The state DEP issued an order stopping construction of Sunoco Logistics’ pipeline.

“Until Sunoco can demonstrate that the permit conditions can and will be followed, DEP has no alternative but to suspend the permits,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement.

“We are living up to our promise to hold this project accountable to the strong protections in the permits,” he said.

Jeff Shields, the spokesman for Sunoco Logistics, now called Energy Transfer, released the following statement:

“We received an order this morning from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that instructed us to suspend construction activities in Pennsylvania with respect to Mariner East 2 until reauthorized by the Pennsylvania DEP. The order requires us to submit various reports related to current and future construction activities. We intend to expeditiously submit these reports and we are confident that we will be reauthorized to commence work on this project promptly. We also reiterate our commitment to the highest levels of construction expertise and our dedication to preserving and protecting the environment in which we conduct our work.”

Among the violations reported across the state, the owners of private wells in Cumberland County near North Locust Point Road in Silver Spring Township reported cloudy water in December.

According to the report, Sunoco’s permits allowed crews to use an open-cut method in that area, meaning they could chop down trees and dig through land to install the pipeline.

But at these sites with the cloudy well water, the company instead used a “trenchless construction” method by boring a drill horizontally underground to move the pipe through. They did this without obtaining permit modifications or authorization, according to the report.

This is a violation of the state’s Clean Streams Law, DEP said.

Those homeowners could not immediately be located for comment, and DEP officials would not share their names, saying they do not release information about private residents.

More violations were reported in a wetland in Lower Swatara Township and off Shaeffer Run in Toboyne Township, Perry County.

Similar to the Cumberland County violations, the Lower Swatara Township incident stems from the company using the boring method instead of open cutting, this time through state waters, according to the DEP.

In Perry County, the DEP received complaints that the company installed a bridge that had been previously deemed to be unsafe by county inspectors, and it was installed over a designated wild trout waterway without obtaining a permit from the department.

The order suspends all work until the department provides authorization for the company to resume construction and gives Sunoco 30 days to submit reports.

“The permit suspension was not the result of a single incident but rather from the pattern of knowing violations of the permit conditions and the numerous pollution events,” DEP press secretary Neil Shader said.

In another part of the state, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an environmental group, said Sunoco also violated a settlement agreement with them that had been secured through litigation.

“This project was flawed from the start, and it is disgraceful that these flaws have manifested themselves in such a way that the public’s health, and environment have been significantly impacted,” said Maya van Rossum, leader of the network.

But Blume, who has a farm and gun shop in Upper Frankford Township, said he has had similar problems all along during his fight with Sunoco Logistics.

Blume was among the Cumberland County residents who unsuccessfully tried to stop the pipeline in court.

Construction started on his property in May, toppling trees and upending earth, which he said contaminated his well. He reported this to the DEP but has not heard back yet, he said.

“What polluted my well is they stripped all the top soil off and the grass and the trees,” he said. The disruption infected his water with bacteria that left it yellow and slimy.

The 76-year-old said he has never had water problems on the property until now. He added that the months of noise, construction and destruction of his land have been a hardship.

“They ruined my place, they ruined my life, they ruined everything,” he said.

He is among the last of those involved with the original lawsuit in Cumberland County to continue to fight against the pipeline, and with the DEP’s order halting construction, he sees some vindication for the argument he’s been making.

“There is so much stuff they’re doing wrong, it’s a danger to people and property,” he said. “It should have been stopped a long time ago.”

When complete, the pipeline will be capable of shipping up to 500,000 barrels per day of liquid natural gas, mainly in the form of propane and butane. The company says shipping through a pipeline is cheaper, faster and safer than shipping across the state’s roadways.

Written by: Steve Marroni, PennLive | Photos by Steve Marroni, PennLive

By |January 11th, 2018|Categories: Condemnation, Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

PA DEP Suspends Mariner East 2 Construction

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has suspended Mariner East 2 construction. Multiple Sunoco Pipeline violations, including some against Faherty Law Firm clients, have led the PA DEP to order a halt on construction.

DEP stops construction on Mariner East 2 pipeline after multiple violations

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has suspended all work on the Mariner East 2 pipeline after citing multiple violations.

The 24-page order suspends all construction permits until Sunoco Pipeline LP meets all requirements outlined in the order. Crews can still perform maintenance of erosion controls and limited maintenance of horizontal directional drilling equipment.

“Until Sunoco can demonstrate that the permit conditions can and will be followed, DEP has no alternative but to suspend the permits,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell in a news release. “We are living up to our promise to hold this project accountable to the strong protections in the permits.”

Some of the terms Sunoco must adhere to include:

  • Addressing all impacts to private water wells in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County.
  • Identifying all in-progress or upcoming construction activities and detail the specific Chapter 102 and Chapter 105 permit under which the activity is authorized.
  • Submitting a detailed Operations Plan outlining additional measures and controls to minimize inadvertent returns.

Sunoco on Dec. 18 notified DEP that it received two complaints in three days from separate water well owners in Silver Spring Township, saying their water was cloudy.

A DEP inspection determined Sunoco had changed its construction method without first obtaining a permit modification.

The full order, which can be found here, lists a number of violations. Some include discharging industrial waste without a permit and horizontal directional drilling despite not receiving permits to do so.

Mariner East II is to run from Washington County across Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook in Delaware County to move propane and other natural gas liquids across the state.

Written by: Travis Kellar | PennLive

Graphic by: Sunoco Logistics

By |January 5th, 2018|Categories: Condemnation, Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

Mariner East 2 Pipeline Update

Faherty Law Firm continues in representation of multiple property owners threatened by the Sunoco Pipeline Mariner East 2 Pipeline. Petitions for Allowance of Appeal  are pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The primary challenge is that the pipeline is primarily for private, not public, use. The attached StateImpact publication provides further updates.

Top 10 things you need to know about Mariner East 2

Updated, 1:25 p.m. Jan. 3: The DEP has suspended all construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, citing permit violations.

Original story: It’s 18 months behind its original schedule, and beset by lawsuits, drilling mud spills, damaged aquifers, a court order and angry residents.

But Mariner East 2, the cross-state natural gas liquids pipeline, is expected eventually to create jobs and provide a lucrative link to world markets for the rich reserves of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. Sunoco says some gas will be sold domestically as propane. But the bulk of the gas will be shipped to places like Scotland and Sweden, as feedstock for plastics.

Here’s what you need to know now about the controversial project:

1. When is it due for completion? Some time in the second quarter of 2018, according to comments from Sunoco officials during a quarterly earnings call in November. They pushed back the date from the fourth quarter of 2017, and said the DEP had been taking its time approving the company’s plans that would allow it to restart drilling at 63 locations where it spilled drilling fluid earlier this year.

2. Why is the company making new plans for drilling? Because after dozens of spills, it is required to under an agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection and a trio of environmental groups that was brokered by the Environmental Hearing Board in August. The deal told Sunoco to take another look at the geology of spill sites to see if they are suitable for a restart of horizontal directional drilling to create tunnels for the pipeline. DEP must approve the re-evaluation plans.

3. How much progress is Sunoco making on re-evaluating those sites? According to a spreadsheet on the DEP’s website, only 16 of the 63 locations were in the re-evaluation process by Dec. 18, and DEP had approved eight of them. Sunoco had yet to submit its plans for some drill sites.

4. Is Sunoco changing its construction method in response to the order? In a few cases, it is proposing to switch to an ‘open trench’ technique, in which the pipe is laid in a trench and then covered over, rather than buried in a tunnel. In the ‘open trench’ cases, the company said it has determined that a change in the construction technique will best protect local water resources, but it won’t affect the construction schedule.

5. Have the spills stopped with the court order? No. In October, DEP data showed there had been 18 spills, or “inadvertent returns,” since the agreement was signed on Aug. 9. Other spill reports have come from residents and local officials.

6. What does Sunoco say about its compliance with the court order? The company says it has always complied with the order, and is working with the DEP to resolve all remaining complaints. It also says the EHB agreement did not mandate that further spills would not occur.

7. Has the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission weighed in? Yes. On Dec. 21, the Commission lifted an injunction against construction of a Mariner East 2 valve on a private site in Chester County’s West Goshen Township after Sunoco dropped its plan to build the valve there. But local officials, seeking safety assurances, want the valve built at another location specified by a 2015 settlement agreement, and are continuing their legal case against the company.

8. What’s going on with eminent domain challenges? The Clean Air Council, an environmental group, argues Mariner East 2 does not in fact have the public utility status that allows it to use eminent domain to seize the property of uncooperative landowners. The PUC granted Sunoco public utility status and gave it the ability to use eminent domain. About a dozen eminent domain plaintiffs await a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on whether it will hear the cases; attorneys are hoping the court will consolidate the cases. Separately, one Delaware County homeowners association is appealing pipeline permits in county court, and the Gerhart family of Huntington County is taking a challenge over wetlands on its property to the Environmental Hearing Board.

9. What about safety of the completed pipeline? Some communities along the 350-mile pipeline route, especially in the densely populated western suburbs of Philadelphia, argue that residents will be exposed to the risk of a major explosion if there is a leak of highly pressurized liquids from the line. Some homeowners fear a drop in the value of properties near the route. In May, a community group in Middletown, Delaware County, released a consultant’s report saying that any leak from the pipeline would ignite immediately and cause serious burns to anyone who is up to 1,100 feet downwind. Sunoco, which argues that its pipelines are subject to rigorous federal and state safety regulations, dismissed the Middletown report as not “responsible.”

10. What’s the status of a risk assessment? U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Republican who represents parts of Chester and Delaware Counties, urged Gov. Tom Wolf to do a risk assessment of the line, which runs from southwest Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook terminal near Philadelphia. Some Philadelphia suburban state lawmakers have also petitioned Wolf for a risk assessment and asked him to halt construction. Wolf says he would support a risk assessment, but that it has to be conducted by the PUC. The PUC says it is evaluating Meehan’s request.

Written by: Jon Hurdle | StateImpactPA
Photo by: Emily Cohen | StateImpactPA
Photo caption: A backhoe clears land for construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Delaware County in early 2017.

By |January 5th, 2018|Categories: Condemnation, Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|