Sunoco Pipeline LP must pay more than $350,000 in penalties for violations related to the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in eight Pennsylvania counties, including Lebanon County, the state Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] announced Aug. 20.
The violations took place between August 2018 and April 2019, according to a statement released by DEP spokesman Jamar Thrasher.
“Protecting the waters of the Commonwealth is one of the top priorities of DEP and we will continue to hold polluters of those waters accountable,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in the statement.
The violations, according to the release, occurred in Berks, Blair, Cambria, Cumberland, Delaware, Lebanon, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
“Sunoco’s horizontal drilling activities resulted in unauthorized discharges of drilling fluids consisting of bentonite clay and water, also known as inadvertent returns, to … Snitz Creek in Lebanon County,” the release explained. Similar occurrences were listed in the other seven counties.
As part of an agreement between DEP and Sunoco, the pipeline company will pay a civil penalty of $355,636 for the violations.
“A portion of the civil penalty, $5,912, will be paid to the county conservation districts to reimburse them for their costs incurred during their investigation of the inadvertent returns,” the release states. “The remaining penalty, $349,724, will be paid to the Clean Water Fund.”
The Concerned Citizen of Lebanon County, an outspoken foe of the pipeline project, was not mollified by the fine.
“It is outrageous” that DEP would impose “such miniscule [sic] civil penalties” while the pipeline project continues to cause further problems.
The Mariner East project dumped 20 gallons of industrial waste into Snitz Creek as recently as Aug. 13, according to a previous report. A few days earlier, the project had an even larger spill — some 10,000 gallons of drilling mud was dumped into Marsh Creek and Marsh Creek Lake at a state park in Chester County.
Sunoco and its parent company, Energy Transfer, are leaving a “trail of stream degradation” in their wake, the citizens group complained.
The penalty was imposed by DEP for “pollution events at 10 streams in 8 counties,” the Concerned Citizens wrote in a statement. That breaks down to just $35,000 in fines per stream.
Snitz Creek alone has suffered six illegal discharges from the pipeline, the group said — which means Sunoco is paying less than $6,000 per violation.
That’s “a slap on the wrist,” the group said.
“Obviously the civil penalty is no dis-incentive to ET/Sunoco to stop its ongoing illegal stream discharges and violations,” the statement said. “If protecting the Commonwealth’s waters was truly a top priority, DEP would revoke the permits for ET/Sunoco’s construction of the ME pipeline project, not let them pay to pollute.”
The $3 billion, 350-mile natural gas liquids pipeline project began construction in February 2017. Since then, according to previous reports, the DEP has issued about 100 violations to the company for polluting high-value wetlands, waterways and private wells.
According to the statement, the Mariner East pipeline carries “highly explosive propane, ethane and butane, the byproducts of natural gas (methane) extraction” under pressure from shale gas fields in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to Marcus Hook on the Delaware River for shipment overseas to plastics manufacturers in Europe.
“This is not a public service, it is a private highway for private profit at the expense of the Pennsylvania public’s natural resources, health and safety,” the Concerned Citizens said.
Is there a story LebTown should be covering? You can share tips with our newsroom using the contact form below.
Give the gift of local journalism.
If you are thankful for what LebTown brings to the community, consider joining our cause as a member. Members get an inside look at our publishing schedule each week, plus invites to our members-only Facebook group and happy hours.
Sign up for an annual membership using the link below, and we’ll give you a free LebTown mug at the next happy hour.
Learn more and join now here.