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Mariner East II pipeline construction to resume after $12.6 million settlement | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Mariner East II pipeline construction to resume after $12.6 million settlement

gtrloyalfollow01072917
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crews work to clean up bentonite clay slurry from Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline in Loyalhanna Township in July 2017.
gtrloyalfollow01072917
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crews work to clean up bentonite clay slurry from Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline in Loyalhanna Township in July 2017.
gtrloyalfollow01072917
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crews work to clean up bentonite clay slurry from Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline in Loyalhanna Township in July 2017.
gtrloyalfollow01072917
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crews work to clean up bentonite clay slurry from Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline in Loyalhanna Township in July 2017.
gtrloyalfollow01072917
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crews work to clean up bentonite clay slurry from Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline in Loyalhanna Township in July 2017.
gtrloyalfollow01072917
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crews work to clean up bentonite clay slurry from Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline in Loyalhanna Township in July 2017.
gtrloyalfollow01072917
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crews work to clean up bentonite clay slurry from Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline in Loyalhanna Township in July 2017.
gtrloyalfollow01072917
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crews work to clean up bentonite clay slurry from Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline in Loyalhanna Township in July 2017.
gtrloyalfollow01072917
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crews work to clean up bentonite clay slurry from Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline in Loyalhanna Township in July 2017.
gtrloyalfollow01072917
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crews work to clean up bentonite clay slurry from Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline in Loyalhanna Township in July 2017.
gtrloyalfollow01072917
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crews work to clean up bentonite clay slurry from Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline in Loyalhanna Township in July 2017.
gtrloyalfollow01072917
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crews work to clean up bentonite clay slurry from Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline in Loyalhanna Township in July 2017.
gtrloyalfollow01072917
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crews work to clean up bentonite clay slurry from Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline in Loyalhanna Township in July 2017.

Sunoco’s Mariner East II pipeline project is allowed to continue now that the company has agreed to pay a $12.6 million penalty for numerous environmental violations.

The penalty is one of the largest in history, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The department suspended all of Sunoco’s drilling permits last month after discovering the company using unpermitted drilling methods in Berks, Blair, Cumberland, Dauphin, Huntingdon, Perry and Washington counties, which led to drill fluid leaking into numerous bodies of water, some of them protected trout streams.

The DEP has recorded more than 100 “inadvertent returns” — leaks of drilling fluid and other liquids — related to the construction of the pipeline since May. These range from tiny spills of less than a pint to 160,000 gallons leaked into a Cumberland County wetland. There were 20 spills in Westmoreland County, mostly around Loyalhanna Lake.

The 306-mile, $2.5 billion Mariner East II project comprises two pipelines, which are expected to carry about 275,000 barrels of natural liquid gas a day across the state, running parallel to the existing Mariner East line.

The DEP has recorded more than 100 “inadvertent returns” — leaks of drilling fluid and other liquids — related to the construction of the pipeline since May. These range from tiny spills of less than a pint to 160,000 gallons leaked into a Cumberland County wetland. There were 20 spills in Westmoreland County, mostly around Loyalhanna Lake.

The 306-mile, $2.5 billion Mariner East II project comprises two pipelines that are expected to carry about 275,000 barrels of natural liquid gas a day across the state, running parallel to the existing Mariner East line.

In Westmoreland County, they will traverse 270 properties over 36 miles, crossing parts of Sewickley, Hempfield, Penn, Salem, Loyalhanna and Derry townships as well as Jeannette, Export, Delmont and Murrysville.

Just before work was halted, a newsletter from Sunoco said the project was 91 percent done, with work in Washington, Allegheny and Westmoreland counties 84 percent complete.

“Throughout the life of this project, DEP has consistently held this operator to the highest standard possible. A permit suspension is one of the most significant penalties DEP can levy,” agency Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement. “DEP will be monitoring activities closely to ensure that Sunoco is meeting the terms of this agreement and its permits.”

The $12.6 million penalty will go to the Clean Water Fund and the Dams and Encroachments Fund.

In addition to paying the penalty, Sunoco was required to submit detailed reports on how the violations happened and how the company will prevent further infractions.

“While we strongly disagree with their legal conclusions that our conduct was willful or egregious, we felt it was important to our unit holders and to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that we move forward rather than engage in continued litigation. We are committed to fully complying with the DEP order, which includes following all permit requirements,” Sunoco said in a statement.

“Safety is paramount for any energy infrastructure project we do – the safety of the communities in which we work and operate, the safety of our employees, and the safety of the environment,” the statement read.

The Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance lauded the agreement.

“The restart of this project is good news for the workers who were idled and hoping for a speedy resolution after construction was halted, and good news for commonwealth residents who are eager to realize the benefits of one of the state’s largest energy infrastructure projects,” alliance spokesman Kurt Knaus said in a statement. “DEP’s action proves that regulators are being an effective watchdog to ensure safe, responsible development.”

Food and Water Watch, an environmental nonprofit that opposes fracking and the pipeline project, condemned the settlement.

“This outrageous deal sacrifices the health and safety of Pennsylvanians for mere pocket change from Sunoco,” organizer Sam Rubin said in a statement.

More information on the settlement is available on the DEP’s website .

If anyone sees pollution from the pipeline affecting streams or waterways they are asked to call the DEP at 800-541-2050.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.

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