With a horrendous pipeline safety record pockmarked with sizable spills into a world class trout stream and at least two sensitive wetlands and the total demolition of an historic dwelling — not to mention, an embarrassingly imperialist clash with the Standing Rock Sioux — Energy Transfer Partners will be investigated for highly suspect business practices, should two ranking Democrats and angry residents of three states get their way.
Sunoco Logistics, recently merged with Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), insists it maintains the strictest safety standards in the interests of public safety and the environment; yet, in actuality, Reuters investigators found its record the worst in the industry — a dubious distinction, considering Big Oil’s obsession with secreting spill information from public perusal.
Traversing Ohio and West Virginia, across Pennsylvania, to the Atlantic coast, construction of Mariner East 2 began in February to the consternation of environmentalists, activists, and residents in its path — many of whom have had their property usurped through the government’s property theft program known as eminent domain — and despite pending litigation, petitions, and large-scale protests.
Representative Frank Pallone, Jr., and Senator Maria Cantwell, in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday, criticized the company for misleading regulators — which ultimately led to the destruction of an historic home in Ohio, for ETP’s Rover Pipeline — and provided a laundry list of spills and accidents spanning several states, for which ETP and its subsidiaries was responsible.
“In light of these troubling reports,” the pair wrote, “we request that FERC expand its investigation to include a review of all ETP projects and assets … including projects by ETP subsidiaries in order to fully determine whether ETP has falsified information for other projects.”
One such troubling incident involving Mariner East 2 occurred two days before the letter — when Pennsylvania’s Environmental Hearing Board was forced to shut down construction on certain aspects of the pipeline over mounting complaints and concerns, as DeSmogBlog reports,
Judge Bernard Labuskes, Jr., “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.
“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.’”
Indeed, West Whiteland Township resident David Mano and his fiancé Dianne Salter told NPR’s StateImpact they were never informed a pipeline would be constructed in the area — and instead found out when an irate neighbor called and advised Mano to check the water in his well.
“Which I did Wednesday evening when I came home,” the homeowner explained, “and my water was light brown, full of sediment.”
Admitting drilling mud seeped into the aquifer supplying homes in West Whiteland Township, ETP insists the resulting presence of bentonite — which it describes as a non-toxic clay slurry and a common ingredient in women’s makeup and cat litter — is no cause for concern.
Residents — looking askance at sediment-laden water — balked.
“Ok, so you want me to drink cat litter and women’s foundation make-up in my water? I don’t think so,” Mano asserted.
Sunoco immediately provided bottled water and booked hotel rooms for residents affected; but, after briefly claiming the contaminant would clear out in a few days, the company offered to connect anyone relying on the aquifer to the public supply.
Beyond the sullied water supply, however, locals — most of whom were, like Mano, in the dark about Mariner East 2 — say the butane, propane, and other liquid fossil fuels slated to flow through the $2.5 billion pipeline present unfathomable risks to public safety.
“So it’s really a fear of an explosion,” Dianne Salter, whose well was impacted, told NPR, “if it does leak on our neighbor’s lawn and they don’t recognize that cloud or fog on the ground, one lady smokes, she drives by and throws her cigarette out the window, we’re goners, we’re gone.”
While FERC does not hold jurisdiction over Mariner East 2, specifically, this spill and the ongoing issues with residents certainly lends color to the voluminous tally of transgressions by ETP.
Considering the Trump administration’s slavish devotion to the oil and gas industry — and an ongoing game of musical chairs for officials — that anything will come of a FERC investigation, or whether an expansion will even occur, remains anyone’s pessimistic guess.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.
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