Category Archives: Pipelines

Help Us Stop the PennEast Pipeline for Good!

from Karen Feridun, Dec 2, 2019:

Five years ago, I started an email account on behalf of the communities coming together to fight the newly-proposed PennEast Pipeline and used the account to create a petition to express our opposition. What has happened since then has been truly remarkable. Huge numbers of concerned residents have organized, commented on the FERC docket (in record numbers), passed municipal resolutions, rallied, marched, attended hearings, written letters, and more and thanks to their efforts, the pipeline still isn’t built.

It’s also been five years since the Delaware River Basin Commission announced it would conduct its own review separate from the FERC review, something it’s able to do as a federal-level commission (the President is one of the five Commissioners). If FERC says yes, but DRBC says no, the pipeline doesn’t get built.

There is no shortage of expert testimony indicating a wide range of profoundly negative impacts the pipeline would create. And now that we’re staring climate change in the face, it’s more important than ever to stop building more shale gas infrastructure.

Five years after starting that first PennEast petition, I’ve started another to support the groups’ current campaign to tell the DRBC it’s time to reject the PennEast Pipeline and close the file. Please add your name!

Chance to comment on pipeline transmissions by Aug. 27

See original post here.

Public Comment on Proposed Rulemaking regarding Hazardous Liquid Public Utility Safety Standards

This letter is intended to be a unified comment to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission from Pennsylvanians who have been impacted by pipeline construction across the state. Please read our letter and list of recommendations for regulations that will protect the health and safety of our communities and show your support by signing below!

If you would like to write and submit your own public comment to the PUC regarding new pipeline regulations, we also encourage you to do so! Learn more here.


Chairwoman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street, Third Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Public Comment on Proposed Rulemaking Regarding Hazardous Liquid Public Utility Safety Standards (Docket L-2019-3010267)
CC: Governor Tom Wolf

Dear Chairwoman Brown Dutrieuille,

Thank you and the commission for soliciting public comment on new safety rules for hazardous liquid pipelines. This is a critical step in allowing the public to express concerns and have their input considered.

Pipeline construction and safety is of great concern in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Although much public and media focus has been on the Mariner East project, tens of thousands of miles of pipeline upgrades and installation is anticipated in the next 10 years, according to state officials. It is critical to enhance regulations now.

The safety of our families and communities is the single most important consideration in the pipeline discussion, and the PUC has ultimate responsibility to ensure that proper rules are in place.

We welcome the opportunity to comment and appreciate the fact that the PUC is looking at all aspects of pipeline safety, from construction methods to leak detection, from public notification to the role of land agents in seeking property rights-of-way.

Our comments on enhancing rules for hazardous liquid pipelines are attached. Thank you for considering these as well as the comments of many other citizens across the Commonwealth.


Danille Friel Otten
PA State Representative, District 155

• Cover Over Buried Pipelines

According to Pipeline Safety Trust, federal regulation pertaining to pipeline transmission depth requires that transmission lines such as Mariner East be buried 48 inches below the surface. Some other locations, such as railroad crossings and certain bodies of water, require deeper pipelines. This federal regulation is concerning because depth requirements only apply to installation and do not need to be maintained over time and apply only to pipelines installed since 1970. This standard must be changed so that existing highly volatile pipelines are required to meet modern depth requirements, and the depths must be adjusted further to ensure public safety. According to the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center, the maximum soil freeze depth in Pennsylvania is 54 inches. Pipelines should be at least six-foot-deep to put them below the freeze line.

• Pipeline Conversions

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has found that it is extremely dangerous to convert oil or gas pipelines to highly volatile gas liquids. Regulations must state that gas and oil pipes shall not be converted to highly volatile gas liquids pipes since it is contraindicated by the industry. Furthermore, regulations must state that pipes made with substandard steel or deteriorated, or defective protective coatings shall not be used on any Pennsylvania pipelines. This information was detailed in Pipeline Safety: Guidance for Pipeline Flow Reversals, Product Changes and Conversion to Service published by PHMSA in 2014. More information can be found at

Also, of concern regarding pipeline conversions are the property rights of landowners who have existing easements. Generally, incident risk is greater for highly volatile gas liquids pipelines than for traditional oil and gas pipelines. A certificate of convenience and necessity and easement agreements should not be transferable. Whenever they propose changing the product that runs through an existing pipeline or adding a new pipeline to the easement, pipeline operators must be required to obtain new certificates and easement agreements.

• Warning Systems & Public Notification

On May 30, 2019 Timothy Boyce, director of the Delaware County Department of Emergency Services testified before the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee at a public hearing. In his remarks, Boyce noted the lack of state funding for emergency preparedness around potential pipeline incidents and the lack of plans in place for a community-wide evacuation especially in the first 30 minutes of an incident.

“You know, we have firefighting plans, we have hazard control plans, we have air monitoring plans, but we don’t have a commonality people plan,” Boyce said. “Not everybody has a smart phone. Not everyone can self-evacuate.” 

It is imperative that leak and incident detection systems are integrated with County Emergency Services in order to properly understand and mitigate risk. Integrated leak and incident detection systems must be installed prior to pipeline operation, and a notification system must be in place to warn the public in the event of a pipeline emergency. Emergency response plans need to be developed to adequately prepare the public in the event of an emergency. These plans must be created in coordination with all levels of government including local municipalities and be tailored to individual communities. Emergency notification and evacuation plans must include individuals with disabilities and be compliant with the American Disabilities Act.  

• Public Education and Preparedness

The Commission should work to develop plans that provide the general public with proper comprehensive information and education regarding pipeline safety. The public should be provided with resources that unambiguously explain any risks posed by pipelines and how to respond in the event of an emergency. A lack of transparency regarding pipeline risk will undermine public safety and trust.

As an example, the Exelon nuclear power plant in Limerick, PA provides an annual communication that outlines the risks, how to know when to follow emergency procedures, exactly how they will be notified, complete with a map of escape routes, and shelters based on the location of evacuees. If, for example, a parent is at home or at work when an emergency response is required and their children are at one of the schools within the potential impact radius, they will know where their children have been evacuated to and how to most safely be reunified with their family members.

• Definition of Public Utility

The term “public utility” must be redefined to clarify and designate that the majority of the product or service must be essential, and the end user must be the public. Public utility status should not be a designation given to corporation for the purpose of manufacturing and/or export of non-essential consumer products. Mariner East was designated as a public utility even though only a small percent of the pipeline capacity is providing resources to Pennsylvania consumers for energy and most of the capacity is being sold to the plastics manufacturing industry. This would give local governments greater ability to regulate public health and safety issues when it comes to infrastructure expansion, especially in high consequence areas.  

• Leak Detection

HB 1735, introduced in May 2019 by Rep. Danielle Friel Otten with nine co-sponsors to date, would provide standards and a fee-generated funding mechanism to cover the cost of real-time leak detection systems that communicate directly with the appropriate first responders. The bill takes into account the size of the pipeline within the municipality, miles of pipeline, pressure in the pipeline, volume of product flowing through the pipeline, population density within potential impact radii, setbacks, report of the pipeline operator on pressure, contents and location of pipes to other pipes in the easement, in establishing a fee imposed on the pipeline operator.

This board would also enhance public notification as outlined above in “Public Education and Preparedness”.

The PUC should consider implementing such a program and funding mechanism for local municipalities within this rulemaking procedure in order to shift the cost burden of early detection and public warning systems off the taxpayers to where it belongs, the pipeline operators.

• Land Agents

Some land agents used by drilling/pipeline companies have harassed, bullied, and misled landowners. With this in mind, we recommend that the Commission require the Real Estate Commission to certify and register land agents engaged in the acquisition of oil, gas and mineral rights (including rights for a pipeline), and those acting to secure right of way for public utilities. Landowners will have the peace of mind that they are negotiating with a state-certified individual. In addition, they will have recourse and a place to turn if the land agent behaves in an unprofessional manner.

• Safety Setbacks

Although the PUC does not have jurisdiction over pipeline routes or siting, we urge the Commission to coordinate with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regarding ensuring that routes are approved with community impacts in mind, particularly looking at health and environmental impact.

Safety setbacks are critical in preventing damage from pipeline malfunctions. There should be a minimum setback for new volatile pipelines that meet or exceed the potential impact radius. For example, if based on a risk assessment the potential impact radius for a pipeline is 1,500 feet, the minimum setback should be no less than 1,500 feet. There are currently no setbacks in place for Pennsylvania pipelines, and this imposes an involuntary risk upon many residents of the Commonwealth.

Federal law (49 U. S. Code § 60112) provides for sanctions against pipeline facilities deemed “hazardous to life, property or the environment”. The PUC should take the lead in defining what is unsafe and hazardous to the public in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This would establish a standard to define what is a reasonable risk to the commonwealth.

The PUC should develop a formula that takes into account the size of the pipeline within the municipality, miles of pipeline, pressure in the pipeline, volume of product flowing through the pipeline, population density within potential impact radii, setbacks, report of the pipeline operator on pressure, contents and location of pipes to other pipes in the easement and determine statistical value of life equation and threshold. If that threshold is met, the operator should be required to re-route, discontinue service, or increase setbacks by procuring additional easements and land rights.

• Accident Liability

Regarding insurance, Sunoco and other Highly Volatile Pipeline Operators have a limited liability partnership. Sunoco has indemnified their parent company, Energy Transfer, until 2032 for all environmental and hazard damages. Regulations must be amended to include proper insurance requirements for incidents on NGL and other volatile pipelines.

According to HMCRP Report 5: A Guide for Assessing Community Emergency Response Needs and Capabilities for Hazardous Materials Releases, written by PHMSA and DOT, unmitigated risks that expose one thousand lives to death could result in a billion dollars in damages. It is imperative that pipeline operators are prepared to pay for these damages. The financial burden must not be placed on the impacted community experiencing potential catastrophic loss at the hands of a corporation.

• Violations

Fines on pipeline violations must never be waived. Pipeline operators must be held accountable, and they will not be accountable if fines are waived. Additionally, the PUC should develop a threshold for the number of violations a single operator can incur before operations are stopped. The burden of the pipeline must be placed on the operators and not the people of Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the cost of certain fines for pipeline violations should be increased.

• Line Markers

Failure to place Line Markers on extensions of pipelines often creates a risk of those pipelines being unintentionally damaged by digging. Line markers should display the depth of the pipe and should be checked annually for compliance.

• Pressure Testing, Operating Pressure, and Valves

Current regulations do not account for the differences between regular oil and gas pipelines and volatile gas liquids pipelines. Standards should be set to account for pressure and flow differences. This review should include minimum and maximum pressure testing values, operating pressure maximums, emergency shutoff valve locations, valve placement and security and construction standards.

• Environmental Justice (Vulnerability Scale and Cumulative Impact)

Regarding the heavy environmental impacts of pipelines, the PUC must work extensively with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to assess the cumulative impact of pipeline projects in accordance with Delaware Rivers Network v. FERC. This could encompass use of the Environmental Justice Protocol (EJP) and Vulnerability Scale as advocated by the Public Interest Law Center.


Shut down Mariner East II, for good

By Mike McGann, Editor, Unionville Times, 5/5/19

Would you allow a five-year-old to run amuck in your neighborhood with a grenade? I’d like to think not, as the odds of it ending well are pretty small.

So, allowing Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners, a corporation who acts nearly as responsibly as a five-year-old, to continue building a pipeline across Chester County, near homes, schools and retirement communities is a good idea?

Well, obviously not.

It is time for Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Department of Environmental Protection to put a final end to this mess and halt once and for all the construction of Mariner East II. For that matter, the construction may have destabilized Mariner East I, so that pipeline may also need to be shuttered for good as well.

It’s time….

read more at Unionville Times

DRN defeats motion to dismiss complaint against Sunoco for Clean Water Act violations

email from Delaware Riverkeeper Network, 2/28/19

On February 12th, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network defeated a motion to dismiss filed by Sunoco Pipeline L.P., allowing the case to proceed. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s complaint was filed in June 2018 against Sunoco for their failure to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES permit) for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project and the Wild and Scenic Delaware River.

“Our government officials have not required pipeline companies like Sunoco to comply with the pollution permitting requirements of the Clean Water Act, they have allowed the companies to evade this mandate of the law entirely,” stated Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper.

Read more in pdf: Sunoco_MTD_Denial_2.13.2019_

What we have learned about Mariner East since the latest sinkhole

letter, Daily Local News, 2/4/19 (in print 2/14/19)

On Sunday January 20th, 2019, yet another sinkhole opened up in a residential backyard in West Whiteland Township, exposing Mariner East 1. Mariner East 1 is an 80 year old pipeline that was repurposed and its flow reversed (against PHMSA recommendations) in 2014 to carry dangerous Natural Gas Liquids across Pennsylvania to be shipped overseas to make plastic. This is the 4th sinkhole on this street in 14 months, all caused by the Mariner East project. Directly impacted residents notified Sunoco, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and called 911.

It has become clear that the PUC is not an unbiased regulator when it comes to the oil and gas industry. Senator Dinniman even recently stated “It’s like the Public Utility Commission is all ‘utility’ and no ‘public’.”

The PUC is using the ARM Group, which is a full-service science and engineering consulting firm, “to monitor geological testing of the site and analyze the results for the PUC investigators”. The ARM Group is the same firm that was utilized last spring after previous sinkholes and ground subsidence concerns. According to that 2018 report, the ARM Group concluded that “the corrective actions taken and planned to be taken by Sunoco Pipeline L.P. (grouting and post-grouting monitoring program) as described herein will be sufficient to mitigate the risk to the integrity of the ME1 Pipeline”. To summarize, less than 9 months after the ARM Group determined this location to be stable, another sinkhole appeared, and the PUC has contracted them to do the same work again. Continue reading

New Sinkhole Opens Up Along Mariner East 1 In Chester County

By Justin Heinze, Patch, Jan 21, 2019

A new sinkhole has opened up along the Mariner East 1 pipeline in Chesco, in the same area that lawmakers noted safety concerns last year.

CHESTER COUNTY, PA — Yet another sinkhole has opened up along the Mariner East 1 pipeline funneling natural gas through Chester County, causing it to shut down. The sinkhole is in the same area that lawmakers noted safety concerns last summer, before the pipeline was allowed to continue operations.

This episode occurred on Sunday in West Whiteland Township on Lisa Drive.

Its the latest incident connected to the controversial pipeline, which, along with Sunoco’s other constrction that runs through Chester County, has led to bipartisan calls for greater oversight and fueled a criminal investigation into Sunoco. …

keep reading at Patch

Criminal Investigation Opened Into Sunoco, Chester Co. Pipelines

By Justin Heinze, Patch, Dec 19, 2018

Breaking: Sunoco is now under investigation in Chester County for potential crimes in the construction of the Mariner East pipelines.

CHESTER COUNTY, PA — After years of controversy, environmental damage, and public calls for government action, Sunoco is now under investigation in Chester County for potential crimes in the construction of the Mariner East pipelines.

Sunoco has been the focus of ire of local environmentalists and state lawmakers for some time, following numerous drilling fluid spills, sinkholes, the contamination of drinking water, and more.

State Sen. Andy Dinniman has led the charge in what he has previously termed a “David vs. Goliath” fight against Sunoco and their drilling operations. That culminated last year with a judge ordering Sunoco to halt all operations, and then again this year with a $12.6 million fine against Sunoco for safety violations.

However, construction on Mariner East 2 has continued, and concerns over the pipeline persist.

“In the last two years, we have seen these pipelines rip through the heart of Chester County,” DA Tom Hogan said in a statement Wednesday. “We have seen sinkholes created by the pipeline drilling, contaminated well water, and some subtle and not-so-sublte bullying of Chester County citizens by big corporate interests.” …

read more at Patch

You’ll Never Even Know We Were Here,’ Sunoco Told Ginny. They Lied

Food and Water Watch, 12/2/18, 12/2/18

When Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners came to Chester and Delaware counties just outside of Philadelphia to push their plans to drill, they didn’t dream that Ginny and her community would put up the fight that they have. Now that these neighbors have had some success in tangling Sunoco’s plans, they’re planning to fight even harder to get the company’s pipelines out of their yards.

When Ginny Marcille-Kerslake looks back on the last two years of damage to her community, what upsets her the most is the fact that Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners lied to her.

“You’ll never even know we were here,” is what the fossil fuel corporation said, according to residents who were talked into getting on board with their underground drilling plan for the Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines, which would transport highly explosive liquids right through their community.

It’s become something of a sick punchline now that time has shown the havoc Sunoco/ETP would wreak on residents’ homes, yards, safety, and property values, not to mention their time, energy, and peace of mind….

read more at Food and Water Watch, 12/2/18

Act Now: Protesting Shouldn’t Be A Felony

Text and petition from Sierra Club

To please corporate interests, our elected officials are willing to make protests a felony. SB 652 would make trespass on or in a ‘critical infrastructure facility’ a felony. The bill broadly defines ‘critical infrastructure’ to include oil refineries, natural gas facilities and pipelines, railroad tracks, cell towers, and many other sites.

Under this bill, what are currently summary or misdemeanor offenses, would become felonies punishable by up to two years in prison and minimum fines of $5,000 – $10,000. This bill would even make it illegal to plan a protest that would involve trespass, regardless of whether or not you actually trespass.

It’s no coincidence that this bill has been introduced in Pennsylvania, where there’s been continuous opposition to proposed natural gas infrastructure. This is an obvious attempt to silence and suppress those who speak out against environmental degradation and corporate recklessness.

This terrible bill has already passed the Senate. Let’s make sure it goes no further.