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Pipeline builder in Pennsylvania failed to safeguard residents, judge says

“Extreme care should have been taken but was not."

  • Michael Rubinkam/Associated Press
Mariner East 2 construction site in Delaware County, Sunday March 22, 2020.

 courtesy of Eric Friedman

Mariner East 2 construction site in Delaware County, Sunday March 22, 2020.

The developer of a multi-billion-dollar pipeline that traverses southern Pennsylvania should have done more to protect the safety of more than 200 residents of an apartment complex during eight months of construction work, a judge ruled.

Sunoco Pipeline LP, developer of the often-penalized Mariner East pipeline network, created a fire hazard during construction, made excessive noise and failed to adequately communicate with residents of Glen Riddle Station Apartments, a 124-unit complex in the Philadelphia suburb of Middletown Township, Delaware County, the ruling said.

“More should have been done by Sunoco where the well-being and safety of more than 200 Pennsylvanians was at issue,” said the ruling, issued Monday by Joel H. Cheskis, deputy chief administrative law judge at the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. “Extreme care should have been taken but was not.”

Cheskis fined the company $51,000 — the latest in a series of penalties assessed against Mariner East.

Sunoco’s parent company, Texas-based Energy Transfer, has paid more than $20 million in fines for polluting waterways and drinking water wells during pipeline construction. Energy Transfer also faces 48 criminal counts over allegations it illegally released industrial waste at 22 sites in 11 counties.

A spokesperson for Energy Transfer said the utility commission judge “rightfully dismissed” some of Glen Riddle’s claims. It plans to appeal the decision to the five-member commission.

The apartment complex is waging a separate legal battle seeking communications between municipal officials and Mariner East. Middletown Township has been refusing to produce the records, asserting they are exempt from disclosure under the state’s open records law. Energy Transfer also opposes their release.

Samuel W. Cortes, an attorney for Glen Riddle, used the judge’s decision to call on Middletown Township to “do the right thing” and release the records.

“The many Pennsylvanians harmed by Sunoco’s project, including the more than 200 Middletown residents whose lives were put in jeopardy so Sunoco could achieve its desired efficiencies, have a right to know more about the secret dealings between Middletown and Sunoco,” Cortes wrote in a letter to Middletown Township’s lawyer, released Wednesday.

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