Oct 06, 2021

Pipeline Developer Charged Due to Drinking Water Contamination in Pennsylvania

Sunoco Pipeline LP, owned by Energy Transfer, spilled thousands of gallons of drilling fluid in 2020, contaminating water supplies.

drinking water

Pennsylvania’s attorney general filed criminal charges against the developer of a pipeline that takes natural gas liquids from the Marcellus Shale gas field to an export terminal near Philadelphia.

According to Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Sunoco Pipeline LP, owned by Energy Transfer, spilled thousands of gallons of drilling fluid in Pennsylvania in 2020, reported CBS Pittsburgh

Energy Transfer faces 48 criminal charges, most of them for releasing industrial waste at 22 sites in 11 counties across the state, contaminating the drinking water of at least 150 families statewide.

“There is a duty to protect our air and water, and when companies harm these vital resources through negligence — it is a crime,” said AG Shapiro in a press release. “By charging them, we can both seek to hold them criminally accountable and send a clear message to others about how seriously we take protecting the environment and public health.”

The spill occurred during construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, impacting wetlands, a stream and part of a 535-acre lake, reported CBS Pittsburgh. The Mariner East 2 Pipeline project crosses 17 counties in the southern tier of Pennsylvania. 

According to the AG press release, Energy Transfer received permits that allowed horizontal directional drilling as the construction method, repeatedly allowed thousands of gallons of drilling fluid to escape underground. 

The multibillion-dollar pipeline project has been under critical watch; A statewide grand jury subpoenaed the company for documents relating to the release of drilling fluids and effects on water supplies.

One resident found that testing revealed that she had high concentrations of E. coli and fecal coliform in her water.

According to Energy Transfer in a recent earnings report, the attorney general has been looking at “alleged criminal misconduct involving the construction and related activities of the Mariner East pipelines.” 

The August 2020 spill at Marsh Creek was among a series of incidents that has affected Mariner East since construction began in 2017, reported CBS Pittsburgh. 

In August 2020, early estimates said that 28,000 gallons of fluid spilled into Marsh Creek Lake in Chester County from an unintentional release. In total, more than 80,000 gallons of this fluid were released in and around the lake during the construction of this one segment of the pipeline between 2017 and 2020, reported the AG press release.

The company has paid more than $16.4 million in fines for polluting waterways and drinking water wells. Among the fines included is a $12.6 million fine in 2018 that was one of the largest ever imposed by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The Mariner East pipeline system transports propane, ethane and butane from Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale gas fields in western Pennsylvania to a refinery processing center and export terminal in Marcus Hook.

According to the AG press release, The Grand Jury recommended that Energy Transfer be charged with 22 counts of Prohibition of Discharge of Industrial Waste under the Clean Streams Law; 22 counts of Prohibition Against Other Pollutions under the Clean Streams Law; two misdemeanor counts of Unlawful Conduct under the Clean Streams Law; and one felony count of Unlawful Conduct under the Clean Streams Law.

Energy Transfer also operates the Dakota Access oil pipeline, added CBS Pittsburgh.

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