The Lead

Mariner East 2 owner fined $30.6 million for western Pa. pipeline explosion

By: - January 3, 2020 4:14 pm

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Citing a “lack of oversight,” the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection levied a $30.6 million fine Friday against Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline.

The fine is one of the largest ever brought by the state, but also lifts an 11-month moratorium on state approval for Energy Transfer Partner pipeline construction permits.

The fine is not related to the Mariner East project, but to a 2018 pipeline explosion in Beaver County that destroyed a home, but harmed no one.

The terms of the fine and accompanying consent agreement include stronger state oversight during future work by Energy Transfer Partners, and a $20,000 fine per day, per incident for future violations, the agency said in a statement.

The state will “continue to carefully monitor ETC’s activities to ensure that ETC meets the terms of this agreement and all approved permits,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement. “The conditions imposed by this agreement seek to ensure that ETC will get this right. Anything less is unacceptable.”

Pa. government presses pause on permits for Mariner East 2 pipeline parent company

Ninety-three cents of every dollar of the fine will fund state regulatory enforcement of oil and gas and clean water programs. The rest will fund community environmental projects, according to the press release.

According to a 2018 federal filing, Energy Transfer Partners brought in $54 billion that year in revenue.

While investigating the 2018 blast, the state found that an Energy Transfer Partners subsidiary “had not stabilized a number of areas along the pipeline” and did not manage stormwater, resulting in landslides. Construction of the pipeline also polluted numerous streams and wetlands along the pipeline’s path.

In response, the DEP halted the approval of any permits for Energy Transfer projects, including such unrelated projects as Mariner East — a controversial pipeline that will transport natural gas from western Pennsylvania to eastern seaports for export.

The construction of the Mariner East pipeline has caused sinkholes and water pollution. It’s also sparked protests in the Philadelphia suburbs from concerned neighbors of the pipeline right-of-way. 

Before Friday, the state had already fined Energy Transfer Partners at least $13.3 million since 2018. Pro-gas Republican lawmakers have even taken to criticizing Energy Transfer Partners conduct.

The pipeline’s controversy has prompted a joint criminal investigation by the Chester County District Attorney’s Office and Attorney General Josh Shapiro. 

The F.B.I. is also conducting its own inquiry into how Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration approved permits for the pipeline, the Associated Press reported.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.