Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Dueling Press Conferences Pit Opponents Of Mariner East Pipeline Against Those Supporting Pipeline Development

On March 19, the Capitol in Harrisburg was the scene of dueling press conferences between opponents of the Mariner East Pipelines and those supporting pipeline development.
An estimated 200 residents from across Pennsylvania gathered at the state Capitol to call for an immediate shutdown to Sunoco’s Mariner East pipeline project.
Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester), Tom Killion (R-Delaware), Rep. Danielle Friel Otten (D-Chester) and other lawmakers also announced the formation of a bipartisan, House/Senate Pipeline Safety Caucus at the rally.
The residents’ call was reinforced by 14 members of the General Assembly, each of whom signed a March 11, 2019 letter to Gov. Tom Wolf calling for the project to be shut down.
Sunoco proposed the Mariner East project to transport industrial quantities of hazardous, highly volatile liquids—such as ethane, butane, and propane—to Marcus Hook for export overseas.
Sunoco has reported more than 300 pipeline accidents to the federal government since 2006. The Mariner East 1 Pipeline leaked highly volatile liquids at least three times in less than one year before being shut down over public safety concerns.
The Mariner East project includes Mariner East 2 and 2X, the currently shut down Mariner East 1, and a twelve-inch workaround pipeline. This workaround pipeline has its own extensive history of accidents in Chester and Delaware Counties.
The groups said Sunoco has failed to provide either a credible notification system or evacuation plan for people within what it calls the “blast radius.” According to a study procured by Delaware County and released in November 2018, the probable fatality zone is more than one mile wide.
“This threat—that hundreds of children might not come home from school one day, is the inexcusable, unnecessary, and unacceptable risk that Sunoco is imposing on communities—across seventeen Pennsylvania counties,” said Bibianna Dussling of Delaware County. “Our government agencies have been spending time pointing fingers and shirking responsibility rather than using their authority to take meaningful action to protect life and property from harm.”
Rebecca Britton, a school director from Uwchlan Township, Chester County said, “Pennsylvanians have traveled from across the entire state to come here today and demand that our rights to health and safety are upheld by our state government and agencies. We are here today to demand a permanent and complete shutdown of Mariner East.”
Added Ellen Gerhart of Huntingdon County, “We call upon the legislature to take swift action to protect the constitutional rights of all Pennsylvanians to private property. And we call upon Governor Wolf and the Public Utility Commission to permanently halt the Mariner East pipeline project, which has caused so much suffering for so many Pennsylvanians.”
The group said every day that the Governor allows any part of Mariner East to stay in operation without the credible emergency plan required by existing regulations is another day that Pennsylvania communities are subjected to unacceptable risk of catastrophe.
Pipeline Proponents
A bipartisan group of state lawmakers joined leaders in business, labor and industry to highlight the economic and public safety benefits of pipeline infrastructure development.
Senate Gas and Oil Caucus co-Chair Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington) emphasized the importance of the oil and natural gas industry to the state’s economy. The industries have a nearly $44.5 billion economic impact in Pennsylvania, supporting nearly 322,600 jobs and generating nearly $23 billion in wages.
“By a wide margin, pipelines are the safest and most efficient means of transporting gas and oil products to consumers,” Sen. Bartolotta said. “The demand for these resources is growing every day. It is essential that we support the safe, responsible development of pipeline infrastructure so our Commonwealth can reap the considerable economic benefits of these critical industries in the form of more jobs and lower energy costs to consumers.”
Rep. Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland) pointed out that pipelines also lead to a healthier environment due to lower carbon emissions than transportation by rail or truck. Senate Gas and Oil Caucus co-Chair John Blake (D-Lackawanna) and Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) also offered remarks in support of the responsible development of pipelines due to the economic and environmental benefits.
Steamfitters Local 420 Business Manager Jim Snell highlighted the knowledge and experience of the state’s construction workers, allowing them to complete projects safely with minimal impact on the environment. Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce Director of Government Affairs Kevin Sunday touted the importance of the multi-billion dollar investments generated by the industry.
Sen. Bartolotta emphasized the economic impact of the continued development of pipelines in the future and said that the greatest threat to the industry is not a lack of resources or workforce, but politicians who do not understand or appreciate the impact of the gas and oil industries in the lives of Pennsylvanians.
“Pennsylvania is uniquely positioned to be a national leader in the gas and oil industries for decades into the future, particularly based on our rich deposits of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region, coupled with our skilled workforce,” Sen. Bartolotta said. “What happens over the next several months and years will determine whether we will be a leader in these industries for a generation. The future of these industries hinges on our willingness to support pipeline projects that show the greatest promise in terms of economic development and public safety.”
(Photo: Pipeline opponents’ rally.)

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