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DA blasts Mariner East contractor's crass threats directed at pipeline opponent

Written by Jon Hurdle/StateImpact Pennsylvania | Jan 17, 2019 4:44 AM
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Mariner East 2 pipeline construction crews work in the backyards of homes on Lisa Drive in West Whiteland Township, Chester County, on May 2. (Marie Cusick/WITF)

(Undated) -- A worker on Sunoco's Mariner East project has threatened a Chester County opponent of the pipeline on social media in two posts that included an obscenity.

County District Attorney Tom Hogan Wednesday released copies of the posts on Instagram as well as a post from the unnamed woman who was targeted -- plus his own statement condemning the worker's language.

In an interview, Hogan said the complaint was the latest of many he had heard regarding bullying or harassment of residents by pipeline workers during the troubled cross-state project.

The exchange was prompted by a post from the resident raising concerns about the quality of welds along the controversial pipeline, following claims last year that Sunoco had to reinspect some welds along the line because they had been falsely approved by an inspector.

"There are those among you making you look really bad," the resident's post said.

In response, the worker - a contractor, not a Sunoco employee -- called the resident a "retard" and an incorrectly spelled four-letter obscenity. "Natural gas isn't going anywhere, get a new hobby," the post said.

The worker said he had never heard the allegations about faulty pipeline welds, but he said if there were any bad welds, he hoped they were in the resident's yard.

"If my weld was bad, I hope it's in your back yard, so I can watch your house burn down on the news," he wrote.

In an apparent reference to the amount of money he made working on the pipeline, the worker then said, "Thanks for the 100,000 summer."

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Mariner East 2 pipeline construction in Chester County. (Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvania)

The worker's union, Pipeliners Local 798, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has a long history of racist and sexist behavior. In the mid-1980s, a judge from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission said there were no black members, and, until the eve of a trial, no females among the union's 5,200 members.

The union's business manager, Danny Hendrix, did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Hogan called the posts "inappropriate and unprofessional" and said the obscenity was "incredibly offensive even if you spell it incorrectly."

He said he had raised the issue with Sunoco and with the leaders of the worker's union in Texas and Oklahoma.

In December, Hogan launched a criminal investigation into the Mariner East project, saying he had received reports that residents had been bullied by pipeline workers, and that the company may face charges including risking a catastrophe.

On Wednesday, he said in an interview that the resident's complaint was the first direct statement he had received of bullying or harassment from a pipeline worker, and followed multiple anecdotal reports that pipeline workers had subjected residents to "obscene rants or bullying."

"It gave me proof that this was going on," he said.

While there will be no charges associated with the new complaint, Hogan said, he issued the statement as a warning to workers on the pipeline.

"It's telling every single pipeline worker that you can't do this," he said. "Don't interact with our citizens. You do that here, and I'm going to talk to your employer, I'm going to talk to your union, and there's a pretty good chance that they are going to deal with it internally in such a way that you are not going to be happy."

Sunoco, a unit of Energy Transfer, said the worker has not worked on the Mariner East project since April and would not be working on any further company project.

"This type of behavior in any form is not tolerated by our company, which in this case was related to an employee of a third-party contractor working on our project," said spokeswoman Lisa Dillinger. "We have put the proper controls in place to make sure he does not return to work on this project, or any other Energy Transfer project."

The natural gas liquids pipeline went into service on Dec. 29 after almost two years of construction marred by spills of drilling fluid, several shutdowns ordered by regulators, and multiple violations of environmental laws.

Regarding the investigation, Hogan said Sunoco has not yet delivered all of the voluminous documentation that he requested.

"They are being appropriately cautious about some of their internal documents. There are trade secrets involved. There are some national security issues," he said.

The Mariner East 2 pipeline will run through Dauphin, Cumberland, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, York and Berks counties.


StateImpact Pennsylvania is a collaboration among WITF, WHYY, WESA and the Allegheny Front to report on the the commonwealth's energy economy.

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