The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has ruled for Sunoco Pipeline in the matter of Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. Sunoco Pipeline, No. 952 C.D. 2017 (Feb. 20, 2018). The court reasoned that a township lacks zoning authority to prohibit a pipeline facility regulated by the Pennsylvania PUC.
Pennsylvania law allows public utility corporations to use eminent domain power when the proposed use is “for the public”. If the proposed use is for the corporation and the public, Pennsylvania law looks to who is the primary and paramount beneficiary. If it is the corporation, Pennsylvania law precludes eminent domain power.
Transource sues landowners for access to properties where power lines are proposed
Transource Energy has sued 24 landowners, asking a Franklin County, Pa., judge to allow the public utility’s representatives to access properties to perform studies, tests and surveys as it proceeds with plans for 29 miles of overhead electric-transmission lines.
The company, through a subsidiary, requested in court documents immediate right of entry onto defendants’ properties. It claims landowners are prohibiting access despite “numerous contacts” since October.
“As a Pennsylvania public utility, Transource Pennsylvania has the power of eminent domain pursuant to the Pennsylvania Business Corporation Law of 1988,” lawyers said in filings.
Transource Pennsylvania made its filings a week ago at the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. As of Tuesday morning, the matter had not been scheduled for a hearing or assigned a judge.
Transource Energy is seeking to spend about $320 million to connect two existing 500-kilovolt transmission lines in Pennsylvania with stations in Maryland, and provide two additional pathways for electricity.
The company’s lawyers said surveying must be done between April 15 and June 15 due to state and federal requirements associated with habitat monitoring for bog turtles. The reptiles are considered federally threatened and are an endangered species in Pennsylvania.
“Without the information from the field surveys, the (transmission-line) project’s design cannot be finalized and the project will be delayed, therefore, the (transmission-line) project requirements will not be met,” Transource lawyers said in court documents.
Written by: Jennifer Fitch | heraldmailmedia.com
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Corporation, Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, issued a report requesting an emergency order to stop the use of Mariner East 1 for transportation of explosive natural gas ligquids. The well grounded safety concerns compelled the PUC Chairman to stop the transportation of the hazardous liquids. Inspections and monitoring will follow.
PUC shuts down Mariner East 1 pipeline, citing public safety concerns raised by sinkholes
Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission on Wednesday ordered a temporary shutdown of the Mariner East 1 natural gas liquids pipeline, saying it could have a “catastrophic” effect on public safety if it leaks.
PUC Chairman Gladys Brown approved a request by the commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement for an emergency order that would halt operation of the line until inspectors are satisfied that it meets safety standards.
The panel, in a petition issued earlier Wednesday, argued that the pipeline had been exposed by the appearance of sinkholes near the construction of two other pipelines – Mariner East 2 and 2X – at several places in Chester County’s West Whiteland Township in recent days.
The panel said that the construction of the two new pipelines and the sinkholes that resulted from drilling for the pipelines – all of it near ME1 – “compromise the safety of the public.”
In a four-page order, Brown agreed with the panel, saying that risks to the public outweigh risks to the shippers of natural gas liquids.
“I agree with BIE that permitting the continued flow of hazardous liquids through the ME1 pipeline without the proper steps to ensure the integrity of the pipeline could have catastrophic results impacting the public,” Brown wrote.
She ordered Sunoco to run an inspection tool through Mariner East 1 for one mile on either side of the location where the sink holes were found, within 24 hours of the order being issued. Within 12 hours of completing the inspection, Sunoco will then shut down the line for an estimated 10-14 days, during which it will study geological conditions and submit its findings for approval by PUC inspectors.
Sunoco will not be allowed to resume operation of the pipeline until it meets all safety requirements set down by PUC inspectors, the order said.
Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields, in a statement issued late Wednesday, said the company will comply with the PUC’s order over the next 10-14 days but insisted that Mariner East 1 is safe.
“This period should allow us to share what our professional geologist has established to date — that the Mariner East 1 pipeline is stable, is located in suitably safe geology, and will continue to operate safely as it has done for decades. The safe operation of our pipelines is of critical importance to us, and we believe the study period will reaffirm the safety of the pipeline,” he said.
Shields said the order does not affect construction for the Mariner East 2 pipelines, which continues throughout the state.
The order is a victory for anti-pipeline campaigners who have argued that natural gas liquids represent a threat to public safety, especially in densely populated areas like the suburbs of Philadelphia.
Mariner East 1, which was built in the 1930s, has been repurposed to carry ethane, propane and butane from the Marcellus Shale of southwest Pennsylvania to a terminal at Marcus Hook near Philadelphia, where most of it will be exported.
The existing pipeline runs parallel to the two new lines. The first, ME2, is scheduled for completion by the end of the second quarter.
Potential ‘catastrophic’ consequences
In its petition, the panel said it is concerned about how close homes and an Amtrak line are to the existing pipeline, and to the construction of the new lines, after the sinkholes appeared.
In language similar to that frequently used by community groups opposing the Mariner East project, especially in Philadelphia’s western suburbs, the PUC panel said public safety would be “jeopardized” without the proposed review of pipeline integrity.
“The pipeline in question transports hazardous liquids in densely populated areas defined by PHMSA [the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] as High Consequence Areas,” the petition said. “Any compromise or failure of the pipeline would have dire results, and the injuries resulting therefrom would most certainly be irreparable.”
PHMSA spokesman Darius Kirkwood said the agency is investigating the sinkholes and looking into whether Sunoco complied with pipeline construction safety rules.
The first sinkhole, measuring about eight feet wide by three feet deep, was discovered in December last year just south of railroad tracks used by Amtrak, the document said. A second hole, about 15 feet deep, was discovered on March 1 about 300 feet from the rail line, and a third, about 15 feet wide and 20 feet deep, was found on a private property at Lisa Drive in West Whiteland on March 3, the document said.
The third sinkhole was about 10 feet from a foundation wall of a house on that property, and partially exposed the ME1 pipeline, the petition said.
It said that Sunoco did not notify PUC or PHMSA about the sinkholes, and that the company’s own Compliance Group was unaware of the events until March 3.
All three sinkholes were filled with a concrete mix on March 3, and construction stopped when PUC inspectors visited the site on March 5. The inspectors found more sinkholes developing that were in the path of both ME1 and ME2X.
Beth Toll, a spokeswoman for Amtrak, said inspectors had found no changes to track structures at the West Whiteland location during or since the construction of that part of the pipeline.
‘Can’t afford to wait’
Before PUC’s decision to temporarily shut down Mariner East 1, State Sen. Andy Dinniman, a Chester County Democrat who has argued that the local limestone geology does not support Sunoco’s drilling technique, urged the PUC to issue the emergency order.
“We can’t afford to wait on this,” Dinniman said in a statement. “The number of sinkholes appears to be growing and the heavy snowfall only seems to be exacerbating the problem.”
Clean Air Council, an environmental group that has led legal challenges to the Mariner project, also urged the PUC to shut down ME1 because of its proximity to “this densely-populated neighborhood with busy Amtrak railroad lines and unstable geology,” said executive director Joe Minott, in a statement.
Sunoco restarted construction on the 350-mile cross-state lines in February after a month-long shutdown ordered by the Department of Environmental Protection in response to multiple violations.
This story has been updated with comment from Sunoco.
Written by: Jon Hurdle | StateImpact Pennsylvania
Photo credit: Eric Friedman
Photo caption: | Crews work to stabilize sinkholes in a West Whiteland Township neighborhood on March 3. The sinkholes appeared recently near a construction site for the Mariner East 2 pipeline.
Eminent domain power is available only for a public use with the need for certain property rights. Public use and the need are two issues raised in a county suit to protect property rights.
Northampton County challenging PennEast on eminent domain
Northampton County wants a jury to decide whether publicly protected open space should be disturbed by the proposed PennEast Pipeline.
The county is one of dozens of landowners in Northampton and Upper Bucks counties targeted by the consortium of energy companies for property acquisition through eminent domain.
These properties are part of the proposed route for the 36-inch-diameter natural gas line connecting Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region 120 miles southeast to Mercer County, New Jersey.
PennEast opened eminent domain proceedings, suing property owners in federal court after efforts failed to purchase land for the route.
Federal regulators approved the $1 billion pipeline Jan. 19, conditioned on PennEast securing other necessary approvals.
The county disputes PennEast’s power to condemn publicly preserved open space through eminent domain. The parcels in Lower Nazareth and Williams townships are protected from condemnation, according to the county.
“The county’s position is that PennEast is trying to use eminent domain for a private enterprise, not one that benefits the public,” the county says in a news release. “The county is also disputing that PennEast is offering fair market value for the easements and that attempting to acquire the title to the property rights prior to payment for compensation violates the separation of powers doctrine.”
Michael Corriere, the county’s first assistant solicitor, requested a jury trial, maintaining that taking the conservation easements are not required for the installation, operation or maintenance of the pipeline. The county also requests PennEast’s suit be dismissed and the county be awarded attorney fees and costs.
PennEast declined to comment on the county’s position. But in a statement following the Jan. 19 conditional approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, PennEast spokeswoman Patricia Kornick said of eminent domain proceedings:
“Through hundreds of meetings and discussions, PennEast has worked collaboratively with landowners, with approximately 75 percent providing survey access
“Unfortunately, organized and unaccountable opposition groups have their own political agenda and use landowners’ withholding survey access to advance that agenda — to the detriment of the landowners. While PennEast views legal proceedings as emotional, burdensome and costly for all involved, it exercised that last-resort option Feb. 6.”
PennEast hopes to begin construction this year on the pipeline, first proposed in August 2014. It is designed to carry up to 1.1 million dekatherms per day of natural gas for domestic energy use, the equivalent of supplying 4.7 million homes. Construction is projected to take about seven months.
Written by: Kurt Bresswein | lehighvalleylive.com
Graphic caption: This PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC shows the route of its proposed 116-mile, 36-inch-diameter natural gas line from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, to Mercer County, New Jersey, as of September 2016, the most recent map available on the energy company consortium’s website. Visit penneastpipeline.com for a more detailed version. (Courtesy image | For lehighvalleylive.com)
The Sunoco Pipeline Mariner East 2 pipeline construction as resulted in many spills and permit violations. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection warned Sunoco Pipeline and then suspended construction. Later, the DEP agreed to allow the restart of construction via a $8,600,000 fine. Faherty Law Firm had negotiated temporary construction easement down from 36 months to 18 months. Now, Sunoco seeks an extension of the temporary construction easements to complete required work. Property owners are not obligated to sell the extension of the prior easements. Faherty Law Firm represents property owners threatened by additional property rights requests from Sunoco Pipeline.
A new volunteer organization is working to protect private property rights in Pennsylvania. Join in this admirable cause via ProtectOurPA@gmail.com.
Pennsylvania Landowners Coalition Fighting to Restrict Eminent Domain for NatGas Pipelines
A new coalition formed by landowners in Pennsylvania wants to strengthen private property rights and lobby lawmakers to limit the use of eminent domain by natural gas pipeline companies working across the state.
Protect Our Pennsylvania organized its first rally at the state Capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday. It issued an invitation to supporters on social media, indicating the rally would be a public meeting to strengthen its mission of “individual rights to private property and public safety over statewide abuse of eminent domain.”
The coalition cited landowners’ struggles with Sunoco Logistics Partners LP’s Mariner East (ME) 2 pipeline and said it wants eminent domain to be applied more narrowly as more midstream companies work to build-out infrastructure to serve Marcellus and Utica shale production.
The 350-mile ME 2 would transport ethane, butane and propane from processing and fractionation facilities in Eastern Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near Philadelphia for storage, processing and distribution to domestic and international markets. ME 1 is fully operational, delivering ethane and propane within the state from Western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook, and the company is gauging interest in a third pipeline that would run parallel to ME 2 and be constructed at roughly the same time (see Shale Daily, Sept. 15, 2015).
State courts have ruled against landowners that have challenged the pipeline (see Shale Daily, Feb. 26). Opponents argue ME does not have eminent domain powers as an intrastate system because it’s been designed as an interstate pipeline to primarily serve overseas and out-of-state markets.
Sunoco has claimed in court that it has a right to condemn property because of its status as a regulated public utility under state law. At trial, it has produced orders and certificates of public convenience relating to ME. It also has argued that the project would have a major economic impact in the state.
Protect our Pennsylvania said it has started conversations with lawmakers about its goals. The coalition has been formed at a time when gathering and transmission pipelines are facing growing opposition across the country. In addition to the infrastructure that has already been built or expanded to handle more shale gas, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has said it expects 25,000 miles of gathering lines and up to 5,000 miles of transmission lines to be built in the state over the next decade.
Written by: Jamison Cocklin | www.naturalgasintel.com
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection had previously presented concerns with the environmental impacts of the proposed pipeline from northeastern Pennsylvania into New Jersey. Now, the Department has taken the more agressive step of asking the federal regulators of FERC to reconsider the FERC approval from last month. Traditionally federal and state regulators have been very supportive of pipeline development. This filing follows the recent trend of more active regulatory oversight.
NJDEP asks Feds to reconsider PennEast pipeline decision, setting up potential legal battle
The NJDEP has asked FERC to place a stay on eminent domain proceedings by the controversial pipeline company.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection filed a request with federal regulators Friday, asking that they reconsider a key decision regarding the controversial PennEast pipeline. The move signals an escalation in the DEP’s opposition to the project and could set the table for a legal battle.
In January, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted a certificate to PennEast that would allow the company to use eminent domain to access public and private lands to survey for the pipeline, and obtain the land if necessary for construction. The tool is essential for the PennEast Pipeline Co., which is seeking to build a 120-mile natural gas pipeline from northeast Pennsylvania to Mercer County. The company has been hamstrung by landowners along the proposed path who have denied it access, including the state of New Jersey.
The DEP has cited the lack of access in denying PennEast’s applications to the state, initiating a Catch-22 that suggested the agency opposed the project. But the agency’s request that the FERC hold a rehearing, and also stay the use of eminent domain until one can be held, shows it is taking a more active role in filing against the project.
In its filing, the DEP argued that the FERC incorrectly confused PennEast’s promises to “mitigate” environmental concerns, with legal requirements that pipelines avoid environmentally sensitive areas.
“Although the pipeline proposes to cross over 30 streams in New Jersey, NJDEP has not been provided with any site-specific stream crossings detailing how environmental impacts would be avoided or minimized,” the filing stated.
The state also argued that simply allowing surveyors to access land “undoes the preserved nature of the land, even if the pipeline will never ultimately cross that land due to route changes.” It also made the argument that the department would require up to a year to review any new application submitted by PennEast, and thus a stay would cause no harm to PennEast as the FERC considers the rehearing request.
The DEP also noted that it wasn’t the only entity requesting a rehearing: The pipeline’s docket showed at least 14 parties also filed rehearing requests this past week, including the New Jersey Sierra Club, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and New Jersey Natural Lands Trust.
In a phone interview, New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said the filings set up a potential legal battle.
“If FERC doesn’t grant (the requests), you can then go to federal court to challenge the decision,” Tittel said.
Court records show PennEast has filed eminent domain proceedings against more than 180 noncompliant properties in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The DEP’s rehearing request noted that PennEast had filed proceedings against 150 parcels in New Jersey.
Written by: Kyle Bagenstose | The Intelligencer
A natural gas pipeline proposed for Luzerne County, Pennsylvania to Mercer County, New Jersey has been approved by FERC. The application still needs permits from the Delaware River Basin Commission and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The company has filed eminent domain documents. Property owners are encouraged to protect their property rights.
PennEast pipeline seeks eminent domain, plus U.S. marshals to protect workers
The PennEast Pipeline Co. filed eminent domain notices in federal court to obtain access to land owned by dozens of people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania who have refused its offers of compensation for building the proposed natural gas pipeline on their property.
Court documents were filed in both states on Tuesday, asking the courts to allow the company to immediately take possession of the rights of way where the pipeline would be built on individual properties.
The company also asked the court to approve the presence of federal marshals to “enforce the Court’s injunction” and to prevent landowners and their supporters from impeding construction.
The filing said that landowners and their supporters have indicated that they intend to block access and “harass and intimidate” PennEast employees and contractors who should be protected by marshals.
In March 2016, federal marshals armed with semi-automatic weapons were present during the cutting of several acres of maple trees on a property in Susquehanna County, Pa. to make way for the planned Constitution Pipeline that was later blocked by the state of New York.
The new filings say the company is authorized to “condemn” the rights of way by the certificate of public convenience and necessity for the project issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on January 19.
Pat Kornick, a spokeswoman for the company, said it has been trying to avoid legal action to obtain access to private land, but finally did so on Tuesday after being unable to agree to compensation terms with an unspecified number of landowners.
“While PennEast views legal proceedings as emotional, burdensome, and costly for all involved, it exercised that last-resort option February 6,” Kornick said in a statement. “The ability to access properties to confirm environmental data is required by the federal order.”
In the public interest
She said the action was justified by the FERC decision, which found the pipeline is in the public interest because of the benefits it will bring to millions of people who will have access to cheap natural gas. The company says the pipeline will be operational in 2019.
The company continues to work with landowners to agree to compensation, and has reached acquisition agreements with “more than half” the landowners along the 120-mile route from Luzerne County, Pa. to Mercer County, N.J., Kornick said.
Timothy Dugan, an attorney who represents about 30 New Jersey landowners who are fighting PennEast, said 49 had been sued by late afternoon Wednesday. He estimated that between 160 and 200 landowners across the route have refused to accept the company’s offers, but that the final number should become known on Thursday when the company continues its filings.
About two-thirds of New Jersey landowners refused any cooperation with PennEast until FERC issued its certificate, but some of those have now reached agreement because they didn’t want the expense of hiring a lawyer, Dugan said.
Some landowners shocked
PennEast’s action came after the expiration of the its own Feb. 5 deadline for landowners, both private and public, to agree to offers of compensation. But the filing still came as a shock to some landowners.
T.C. Buchanan, who owns 32 acres in Delaware Township near Stockton, has been fighting the company’s plan to create a right-of-way about a half-mile long and 100 feet wide on her farm.
She said PennEast offered $46,000 for the easement, which she said would make the farm “worthless.”
“When somebody is threatening to destroy something you have worked your entire life for, it’s so upsetting,” said Buchanan, 63, who has lived on the farm, and made her living from it, for 22 years.
She said she would not accept PennEast’s offer at any price. “This is what we worked our entire lives to have and we don’t intend to give it away,” she said.
Jacqueline Evans runs a certified organic farm on 6 1/2 acres near Stockton, where she lives with her three children, and where PennEast wants to build the pipeline. She said she would lose her organic certification and the pipeline would come “dangerously close” to her well.
Evans, 53, said PennEast appraised the proposed right of way at $11,900 but then offered her $49,300 on condition that she accept the offer within a week.
She refused, and says she won’t accept any amount of compensation. “This is wrong, and I’m not letting them put my children in an incineration zone,” she said.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, urged landowners to hold out against PennEast despite the eminent domain orders.
“If homeowners give PennEast easement, they will lose their rights on a portion of their land. They are better off fighting them in court to delay them and limit their ability to just do survey work on their land,” Tittel said in a statement.
While the FERC certificate was a boost for the pipeline project, it must still obtain permits from the Delaware River Basin Commission and from New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, which last week denied the company’s application for a wetlands permit, saying it had not supplied enough information.
The company says it will reapply, and argues that the pipeline will increase the supply of low-cost natural gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale to consumers and utilities in the two states. Opponents including the New Jersey Rate Counsel, an advocate for utility ratepayers, say there is no need for the line.
Written by: Jon Hurdle | StateImpact PA
Photo caption: A landowner rips up an offer of compensation from PennEast at a rally February 2, 2018.
The Pennsylvania DEP ordered a January 3 halt to the Mariner East 2 pipeline construction following multiple permit violations. The DEP has now allowed a February 8 restart to construction following an agreement with Sunoco Pipeline with a fine of $12,600,000. The DEP will monitor further construction.
The delay has led Sunoco to offer the purchase of additional one year easements for ongoing construction/remediation work. Property owners are not obligated to agree. Faherty Law Firm is providing legal representation to owners approached by Sunoco Pipeline for additional property rights.
Sunoco fined $12M, but allowed to resume work on Pa. pipeline
Pennsylvania regulators are fining Sunoco more than $12 million for problems with a massive natural gas pipeline project, but letting work resume under a consent agreement.
The Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday that Sunoco Pipeline has made changes since work on the $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 pipeline was halted Jan. 3.
Rolfe Blume holds up bottles of water that he said came from his well after construction started on the Mariner East 2 pipeline.
The 350-mile project has been plagued by spills and leaks of drilling fluid and improper construction methods.
The company didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
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 in areas where the DEP reported that Sunoco’s crews used a method of digging that wasn’t allowed under its permits.
More violations were reported in a wetland in Lower Swatara Township in Dauphin County and off of Shaeffer Run in Toboyne Township in Perry County.
‘It should have been stopped a long time ago:’ Pipeline opponent sees construction halting as small victory
Rolfe Blume of Upper Frankford Township has fought the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which cuts through his property on its way across the state. The DEP halted construction Wednesday over numerous violations.
The 20-inch pipeline will move natural gas liquid products from Marcellus Shale drilling fields in western Pennsylvania to a terminal in Philadelphia.
It’s scheduled for completion by summer.
Written by: Mark Scolforo | The Associated Press
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