I am grateful that Energy Transfer/Sunoco Pipeline is being held accountable for the serious environmental crimes associated with the construction of the Mariner East Pipeline in our region and across the Commonwealth. I thank Attorney General Josh Shapiro and his office for their determination and hard work in pursuing this investigation and forcing the company to finally begin accepting responsibility for damaging wetlands, waterways, and drinking water supplies. 

According to the Attorney General’s Office, as a result of Energy Transfer pleading no contest to dozens of charges, the company will: 

  • Provide independent evaluations of potential water quality impacts for homeowners from the construction of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline free of charge. 
  • Offer approved mechanisms for restoring, repairing, or replacing the impacted private water supplies free of charge.
  • Pay $10 million towards projects that improve the health and safety of water sources along the routes of the pipelines. 

In addition, the company will have a permanent criminal record to reflect these serious environmental crimes.  

The Attorney General’s office is reaching out to residents along the pipeline route informing them about the free testing and water restoration. If you believe your drinking water was impacted by the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, please contact the Attorney General’s Office by August 19  by emailing watertesting@attorneygeneral.gov or by calling 570-904-2643. 

Under the plea agreement, you are entitled to have your water quality tested by independent, professional geologists. If the testing determines that pipeline construction has damaged your water supply, Energy Transfer is obligated to fully restore safe water.

When the Attorney General announced these charges last year, I was joined by my legislative colleagues in calling for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to stop issuing permits for the project and to halt construction.

While the $10 million Energy Transfer must pay to restore waterways damaged by its construction is significantly more than the maximum penalty required under state law, the company has already paid tens of millions in fines to push through this project. And just earlier this week, it reported strong second-quarter results to shareholders, including net income for the three months ended June 30, 2022, of $1.33 billion (a $700 million increase from the same period last year).

Pennsylvania residents have a constitutional right to “clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment.” And I am again, deeply appreciative that Attorney General Shapiro and his office, with the support of local environmental groups and citizen advocates, acted as trustees of these resources and defenders of residents to hold Energy Transfer accountable.

I continue to strongly support legislation to enact stronger standards and tougher fines to better protect environmental health and public health and safety, as well as adequate resources to ensure that agencies like DEP can better enforce existing laws.

In addition to pipeline safety legislation I have introduced, I support a package of bills to establish siting procedures for the construction of new pipelines, require legislative approval for new projects, govern safety information for schools and first responders, and mandate automatic shut-off valves in high-risk areas.

However, the reality is I still do not expect the legislative majority to take up any pipeline safety bills at this time. That is why for years, I have been and continue to work on a parallel path – advancing key pipeline safety regulations through the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).

That process, while lengthy, continues and remains the path to the most significant progress on pipeline safety in Pennsylvania. According to the PUC, it is currently reviewing the comments from the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) and assessing recommendations. It will then submit a final rulemaking to IRRC.

In addition, I and my fellow legislative colleagues recently asked the governor to expedite the process of approving new nominees for the five-member PUC, which is already two members short. While those concerns are initially related to the water and wastewater ratemaking process, a limited PUC could also potentially impact matters involving pipeline safety and pipeline safety regulations.

The Mariner East pipeline project may be complete, but unfortunately its impacts on residents and our environment continue. Earlier this summer, Sunoco failed to meet its deadline for cleaning up the spill in Marsh Creek Lake. This week marks two years since the spill, which sent more than 20,000 gallons of drilling mud into streams, wetlands, and the lake.

As more pipeline projects are being planned or are on the horizon for our region, it’s imperative that we to learn the lessons of Mariner East and be proactive in protecting our environment and residents through local and statewide advocacy, participating in the regulatory process, and supporting candidates and elected officials who prioritize our environmental rights under the Pennsylvania constitution.