Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Chester County District Attorney Opens Criminal Investigation Into Mariner East Pipeline Construction

On December 19, Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan announced he has opened a criminal investigation into the construction and “not so subtle bullying” of residents in connection with Sunoco’s Mariner East Pipelines.
“In the last two years, we have seen these pipelines rip through the heart of Chester County. We have seen sinkholes created by the pipeline drilling, contaminated well water, and some subtle and not-so-subtle bullying of Chester County citizens by big corporate interests,” said District Attorney Hogan.  “We expected the state regulators and the governor to step in and assure the safety of Pennsylvanians. They have not. So now the Chester County District Attorney’s Office will demand that every aspect of these pipelines be conducted safely, or we will bring into play all of the tools of the criminal justice system.”
The Mariner East 1, 2, and 2X pipelines are intended to ship volatile natural gas from western Pennsylvania all the way to Marcus Hook in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
These pipelines cut directly through the middle of Chester County, bisecting heavily populated residential areas, running near schools and businesses, and in close proximity to railroads and streets.
The Mariner East 1 pipeline previously existed to ship refined petroleum under Chester County running from the eastern portion of Pennsylvania to the west.
Refined petroleum is a very different substance than natural gas and Mariner East 1 is smaller than the planned Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines. Sunoco intended to build the Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines along the same route as Mariner East 1.
In order to accomplish this, they intended to use horizontal directional drilling, a process that can be problematic depending on the area where drilling is occurring. Sunoco also introduced plans to reverse the flow of Mariner East 1 and use it to ship natural gas under Chester County in the older and smaller pipeline.
The Mariner East pipeline construction has experienced significant problems. On the property of homes in West Whiteland Township, the drilling resulted in significant sinkholes in the residents’ back-yards.
In another area of Chester County, the drilling caused the apparent contamination of well water for multiple residences. In Beaver County, Pennsylvania, there was an explosion along a pipeline, destroying a home.
The Department of Environmental Protection has fined the owners of the pipelines. But the construction of these pipelines keeps continuing.
“Two things recently happened that drew the attention of the District Attorney’s Office,” Hogan added. “First, the explosion in Beaver County changed speculation into tangible danger and destruction. Second, over Thanksgiving, some of the residents of Lisa Drive in West Whiteland were kind enough to take me onto their property and show me the damage caused by the pipelines. The concerns and fears of those citizens were both disturbing and heart- wrenching. I then detailed District Attorney staff members to do the legal research to make sure that the DAO had jurisdiction to investigate the pipelines and received an affirmative response.”
The District Attorney’s investigation will cover both past and future conduct related to the pipelines.
Potential charges include causing or risking a catastrophe, criminal mischief, environmental crimes, and corrupt organizations. Such offenses could include criminal charges directly against the individual employees involved, from workers on the pipelines through corporate officers.
“This investigation will not be easy. It will take time to dig into the historical information and we will need to constantly monitor any future activity. But we are committed to protecting Chester County. And we will need our citizens to help,” said Hogan.
Citizens Asked To Call
Chester County Detective Ben Martin is the lead investigator. The assigned prosecutors are Alexander Gosfield and Myles Matteson. Anybody with information should contact Detective Martin at 610-344-6866.
“We understand that only the Pennsylvania Utility Commission or the governor can shut down construction of these pipelines, and neither has shown any inclination to do so. But we can at least make sure that anything that happens in Chester County complies with the criminal laws of Pennsylvania. We owe that to our citizens. Money should not be allowed to trump safety,” said Hogan.
Click Here for more information on DEP’s actions related to the Mariner East 2 Pipeline.
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