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Court halts construction of major new Pennsylvania gas pipeline pending environmental review

26 July 2017

A court order has halted construction of the Mariner East 2 gas pipeline across Pennsylvania. On July 19, three environmental groups presented the state’s Environmental Hearing Board with documentation alleging that the Sunoco project had caused drilling fluid spills and other accidents between April and June, leading to the ruling that all work should stop pending verification of the allegations.

Stock image
Stock image

On July 25 the board ordered all horizontal directional drilling — expected to be used in 168 locations where the pipeline crosses waterways or other obstacles — halted until August 7, except in places where Sunoco can show that stopping mid-bore would cause safety problems, equipment damage, or “more environmental harm than good.” The order immediately affects 55 sites where drilling is currently underway.

Other pipeline-related construction work, such as conventional road boring and open trench construction, will continue.

The $2.5 billion, 350-mile (563-kilometre) pipeline across southern Pennsylvania will carry propane, butane and ethane from the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation to an export terminal near Philadelphia.

One of the environmental groups, the Clean Air Council, said in a statement: “Across the state, Sunoco has unleashed drilling fluid into exceptional value wetlands, high-quality trout streams, reservoirs, and groundwater endangering both drinking water supplies and our natural environment.”

The non-profit group, along with the Mountain Watershed Association and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, submitted the evidence to the judge one week ago.

State environmental regulators are also investigating potential violations during the pipeline's construction, including one case where regulators found that 14 homeowners “experienced adverse impacts to their private water supplies, which are drawn from groundwater.”

A hearing on the environmental issues is set for August 7 in Harrisburg. A statement from Sunoco Pipeline welcomed the hearing, saying it would demonstrate the company had made every effort to meet the strict conditions of its environmental permits.

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