DEP green-lights Mariner East 2 pipeline project

February 14, 2017

The state Department of Environmental Protection has issued environmental permits for Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East 2 pipeline that will let the company begin construction on the cross-state project.

Following a process that covered more than 2 ½ years, and included lengthy public input, the agency said in a news release issued Monday evening that it issued the necessary permits.

The project required a Chapter 105 permit covering water obstruction and encroachment in 17 counties, starting from Washington County, and Chapter 102 (erosion and sediment control) for each of three DEP operating districts across the state’s southern tier.

The pipeline will transport natural gas liquids from Southwestern Pennsylvania counties to Marcus Hook in southeastern Pennsylvania.

“I am proud of the immense undertaking our staff took to hold this project accountable within the confines of state law and DEP’s role in this process over the last few years,” said Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell in a statement. “This was a huge undertaking – holding five hearings during a 60-day comment period, reviewing permit applications and technical deficiencies for more than 20,000 hours, responding to 29,000 comments and ensuring Sunoco addressed deficiencies identified in its initial applications.”

The project originates at the MarkWest natural gas processing plant in Chartiers Township and moves eastward across the southern half of Pennsylvania.

DEP said part of the review process included revisions to the original permit applications submitted by Sunoco. The revisions were received in December, in response to technical deficiency letters sent by DEP in September. The final approvals include conditions in both the Chapter 102 and 105 permits to establish environmental protections specific to the project.

DEP said it did not hold an additional public comment period or hold additional hearings because the revisions Sunoco made to the applications did not substantively change rights of way nor the corridor of the permits.

Mariner East 2, estimated to cost $2.5 billion, will carry propane and butane from the Marcellus and Utica shale areas of Ohio, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania eastward to the Marcus Hook industrial complex.

Sunoco Logistics spokesman Jeff Shields said the issued permits enable Sunoco to begin construction throughout Pennsylvania, with estimated completion in the third quarter. He said the pipeline, which parallels the already functioning Mariner East 1 pipeline, will require more than 8,000 construction workers.

“By keeping these natural resources in Pennsylvania for storage, processing and distribution to local, regional and international markets, Mariner East 2 offers Pennsylvania the opportunity to develop its own manufacturing economy rather than sending jobs and investment elsewhere,” he said.

According to Sunoco, the system will be built and operated to standards that meet or exceed federal pipeline safety regulations, using 75,000 tons of steel, all of which will be made in the United States.

According to the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, which includes members from the Delaware County and Washington County chambers of commerce and representatives from Laborers International Union of North America and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66, the new pipeline will generate $4.2 billion for Pennsylvania’s economy and contribute $62 million in property taxes annually.

“This is the missing link for the natural gas industry in Western Pennsylvania, said Washington County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Kotula. “We’ll soon have the safe infrastructure we need to move our energy resources to market.”

The Associated Press reported Tuesday environmental groups are trying to halt construction of the pipeline while they appeal the newly issued permits.

The groups say DEP approved incomplete permit applications for Mariner East 2. They argue construction of the 306-mile section of Mariner East 2 would cause massive and irreparable harm to the state’s environment and residents.

The Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Mountain Watershed Association appealed the decision to a state environmental hearing board.

Environmental department officials have declined comment.

Michael Bradwell has been business editor for the Observer-Reporter since 1995, and was named editor of The Energy Report in 2012. He joined the newspaper in 1990 as a general assignment reporter in the Greene County bureau and has also worked as a copy editor. A 1974 graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a degree in English, he began his career at the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette. Prior to joining the O-R, he served as public relations director for Old Bedford Village, account executive at two Pittsburgh public relations agencies and copywriter for the country’s largest wholesaler of mutual funds.

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