Energy Transfer Partner subsidiary, Sunoco Pipeline LLP, Thursday agreed to pay a $12.6 fine for permit violations to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after which the company will be allowed to resume construction on the Mariner 2 East natural gas pipeline.
DEP ordered Sunoco to stop work on the pipeline January 3 on the $2.5 billion project, saying Sunoco demonstrated it could not or would not comply with Pennsylvania's clean streams law and other regulations.
According to the DEP filing, Sunoco conducted unauthorized pipeline installation activities on:
- June 4 to October 3, 2017: Blair HDD (horizontal directional drilling) site near Mingo Creek - no permit
- July 7 to July 15, 2017: Washington and Dauphin HDD sites - no permit
- November 8 to November 20, 2017: Dauphin HDD site - no permit; unapproved construction method
- November 11, 2017: release of sediment into Hay Creek - no permit
- November 13-14, 2017: release of drilling fluids in Hay Creek - no permit
- November 17, 2017: no permit issued for HDD construction method near Cacoosing Creek
- December 5, 2017: installation of an air bridge in Perry County - no permit
- December 18, 2017: Cumberland HDD site - no permit; changed from allowed open-cut to trenchless construction without notifying DEP
- Multiple discharges of industrial waste into sensitive wild trout waters
Thursday's consent order lifts the January DEP stop work order.
The $12.6 million fine is one of the largest civil penalties Pennsylvania has ever imposed, saying the money will be deposited into funds for clean water and dams and encroachments. DEP called the penalty “historic” and said it includes a stringent compliance review.
Environmental Protection 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 company said Thursday it agreed to the deal to avoid litigation and resume construction on the pipeline project. "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," according to a statement released by spokesman Jeff Shields.
The 20-inch pipeline will move liquid natural gas from Marcellus Shale drilling fields in western Pennsylvania to a terminal in Philadelphia. It is scheduled for completion by summer, and a companion 16-inch pipeline is expected to begin operation later in the year.
Also on Thursday, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration posted two notices of probable violations against Sunoco for failing to inspect its pipelines as often as required under the law. One citation proposes $163,700 in fines for overdue inspections of pipelines connecting the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery complex to nearby fuel storage sites; a second citation proposes a $127,000 fine for untimely inspections of above-ground facilities at Boston Logan Airport.