Mariner East project penalized for dozens of violations in Lebanon County

  • Rachel McDevitt/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Sunoco is paying nearly half a million dollars to the state for problems with its Mariner East 2 project in Lebanon County.

The penalties are for a series of incidents along the pipeline’s route last year, including an October spill that dumped 200 gallons of drilling fluid in 20 places along Snitz Creek.

The October spill was the largest in the county to date and prompted regulators to call a meeting with Sunoco to determine if the company can’t or won’t comply with permits and regulations. The meeting could have resulted in additional penalties, such as a hold on permits, but a Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said it was determined such action wasn’t warranted.

DEP says Sunoco did not tell them about 32 losses of circulation between May and August. A loss of circulation is when liquid used to drill doesn’t come back up to the surface.

Between Sept. 17 and Oct. 19, Sunoco reported 12 spills.

Sunoco paid $497,000 in penalties to DEP, with the majority going to the Clean Water Fund. It also paid $25,855 to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

On top of the fine, Sunoco must create a cleanup plan for the area, due by Feb. 28.

Sunoco paid the penalty Feb. 16, and was back to work at the Snitz Creek site the next day, DEP said in a news release.

Asked if Sunoco would change its methods or route to prevent future incidents, parent company Energy Transfer said, “After months of review, PA DEP approved the restart of the [Horizontal Directional Drill] based on our plan that includes various modifications to mitigate any potential inadvertent returns along the current route.”

A string of violations in Lebanon and Chester counties last year had environmental advocates questioning whether building a pipeline in the area’s fragile limestone geography is even feasible.

The Mariner East carries natural gas liquids through 17 counties from southwestern Pennsylvania to an export terminal near Philadelphia.

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