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Reports say feds probing Wolf administration’s pipeline decisions

  • Ed Mahon/Spotlight PA
A Mariner East pipeline valve site on the edge of the Andover development, Thornbury Township, Delaware County, illustrates the pipeline's path through densely-populated southeastern Pennsylvania.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A Mariner East pipeline valve site on the edge of the Andover development, Thornbury Township, Delaware County, illustrates the pipeline's path through densely-populated southeastern Pennsylvania.

David Crary of The Associated Press looks at how TV viewing habits have changed since 1973, when the Senate Watergate hearings were held. Variety called them “the hottest daytime soap opera.” PBS NewsHour & NPR News will provide live coverage of the public impeachment hearings today and Friday. Details here. –Ed Mahon, PA Post reporter

The multiple Mariner East investigations, explained

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A Mariner East pipeline valve site on the edge of the Andover development, Thornbury Township, Delaware County, in southeastern Pennsylvania. (Jon Hurdle / StateImpact Pennsylvania)

  • The Associated Press’s Marc Levy reports that the FBI is investigating how Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration approved permits for Mariner East pipeline work and whether “his administration forced environmental protection staff to approve construction permits and whether Wolf or his administration received anything in return … .”

  • Levy’s story is based on information from three unnamed sources described as having direct knowledge of the FBI agents’ line of questioning.

  • The Philadelphia Inquirer later reported that the “federal probe has been running for at least six months… .” That story was also based on three unnamed sources, plus a fourth source who “described the investigation as being in its preliminary stages.”

  • What is Mariner East? StateImpact PA describes it as a “pipeline project plagued by mishaps and delays.” It is made up of three project lines, all designed to carry natural gas liquids “from the Marcellus and Utica Shale plays in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania across the state to a processing and export terminal in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.”

  • Sunoco Pipeline LP, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer LP, is the pipeline builder, according to The Inquirer.

  • Problems encountered during the construction include sinkholes and mud spills. And some people who live near the pipeline say they worry a leak of the highly flammable liquids could cause a catastrophe.

  • The AP story notes that county and state prosecutors are already investigating the pipeline. Last year, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced a criminal investigation into the pipeline.

  • And earlier this year, StateImpact PA’s Reid Frazier reported that Attorney General Josh Shapiro was helping prosecutors in Delaware County “investigate the troubled Mariner East pipeline project, which has caused sinkholes, contaminated well water, and leaked gasoline into waterways.”

  • Pipeline opponents have tried to put pressure on Wolf and his administration to stop construction. StateImpact PA’s Jon Hurdle covered a rare public meeting the governor had with opponents in Chester County in August. Wolf said he shared some of the safety concerns. “So, we’ve gotta figure out how to do a better job, I fully agree,” Wolf told the group. “What we disagree on (is) in terms of whether we should keep doing this or not.”

  • StateImpact PA has details on the response from state Sen. Andy Dinniman, a Chester County Democrat and pipeline opponent. “From the very beginning and at many times along the way, we have raised serious questions about the permitting process of the Mariner East pipeline project,” he said. “I hope that this development sheds a bright light on those questions and more.”

Best of the rest

Pedestrians walk past a polling station on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019 in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania's municipal elections feature contests for two statewide appellate judgeships, as well as some potential firsts in local contests.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Pedestrians walk past a polling station on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019 in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania’s municipal elections feature contests for two statewide appellate judgeships, as well as some potential firsts in local contests. (Matt Rourke / AP Photo)

  • Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters exercised their right to straight-party vote last week, according to an analysis by PennLive’s Jan Murphy. Of counties where information was available, Montgomery County had the highest percentage of voters casting straight-party ballots: 62.3 percent. Automatic straight-ticket voting will be going away.

  • Inmates in Dauphin County say they are so cold they can see their breath, Joseph Darius Jaafari reports for PA Post. A county spokesperson says a few inmates complained about the heat over the weekend.

  • New ads from American Bridge 21st Century feature Mark Graham, who describes himself as an Erie resident who voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 but now says voting for him in 2020 “would be like putting gasoline on a fire.” The group says the ads are part of a $3 million ad buy in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The ads are one more reminder of the importance of Pennsylvania — and Erie County in particular —  as a potential 2020 election bellwether.

  • Speaking of Erie, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer traveled to the city and, while there, rented out dance studio space so he could practice for “Dancing with the Stars.” Alas, he was voted off the show.

  • Retired military leaders say Pennsylvania needs to spend more money on schools, child care and pre-K programs. I wrote about the report. As the parent of a child in full-day childcare one line in particular caught my eye: “Currently, parents pay an average of $11,560 for center-based infant care in Pennsylvania, compared to $14,437 for public college tuition.”

  • Sen. Bob Casey found misleading ads on Google for Obamacare health plans. The ads actually promoted less-than-comprehensive health care coverage. To Google’s credit, the company pulled the ads, according to an announcement from Casey on Tuesday. But Casey is still waiting to hear back from Bing and Yahoo! Read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s story here.


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