Middletown pipeline foes vow to continue fight
To paraphrase John Paul Jones, the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety “has not yet begun to fight.”
The grassroots organization, which filed an injunction in Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Monday in an attempt to defer council’s vote that night regarding the Sunoco Logistics Mariner 2 pipeline project, plans to continue its efforts despite the unanimous decision to grant the necessary easements.
“We will pursue each and every legal and constitutional option available to us to stop the pipeline,” said coalition member Eve Miari. “We plan to engage with our state representatives and senators and entities such as” the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Commission.
Spanning Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, Mariner 2 is a 350mile pipeline system which would bring natural gas liquids such as propane, ethane and butane to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex. Approximately 11.4 miles would be installed in Delaware County across private and public property in Thornbury, Edgmont, the township, Aston and Upper Chichester, ending at the facility. The first 20-inch pipeline would have an initial capacity of about 275,000 barrels a day with the ability to expand to 450,000; the second 16-inch line, if needed, would have an additional capacity of approximately 250,000 barrels a day. Both lines would be included as part of the project.
The vote approved a 50foot easement to construct, operate and maintain two pipelines, underground facilities and above-ground markers on four township-owned parcels and maximum 12-foot wide perpetual rights-of-way and easements for use as access roads on three township-owned roads. The pipelines would be installed on open space at Sleighton Park, the Hillcrest and Linvill tracts and Old Mill Pointe. The rights-of-way would be on a road adjacent to Glenwood Elementary School and two roads on the Turnbridge parcel. The township will be paid $1.8 million which will be placed in the capital fund for improvements, said Councilman Mark Kirchgasser.
The coalition was “not surprised by council’s vote” and encouraged by its direction, said Miari. In addition to pre and post-construction concessions negotiated with the company, council approved a proclamation similar to one in Thornbury which will be forwarded to Gov. Tom Wolf, the secretary of the state DEP and chairman of the PUC. It noted the materials to be transported are “if released, gaseous, invisible, odorless, toxic, heavier than air and highly flammable.”
“This project has the potential to jeopardize public safety in the township by accidental leaks and explosions or fire,” it read. “A leak of these hazardous liquids has the potential to block or
render unsafe three-quarters of the available evacuation routes for township residents.”
Council also invited coalition members and current and future Glenwood Elementary School parents Bibianna Dussling, Seth Kovnat and Tom Smith to work with the body. Kovnat, a structural engineer with experience in pipeline systems, noted the township has received its information exclusively from Sunoco Logistics and believes he will provide another perspective.
“We hope to educate the public and decision makers on the state and federal levels as to what this type of pipeline really is,” he said. “They need to be regulated at the level of a nuclear facility.”
The coalition, which has more than 1,000 followers on Facebook, plans to coordinate efforts among the organization, council, Rose Tree Media School Board,
community members and additional stakeholders. The group has engaged professionals to complete a risk assessment, will offer support such as expert witnesses to individuals filing suit against the company and is hoping to introduce legislation at the state level.
The coordination with Harrisburg has already begun. Through the efforts of state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9, of Middletown, and state Reps. Chris Quinn, R-168, of Middletown, Dan Truitt, R-156, of West Chester, and Steve Barrar, R-160, of Upper Chichester, chairman of the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, a public hearing has been scheduled for mid-November to examine the scope of the current state regulations and determine if any additional precautions are needed.
“The hearings will examine the current regulations regarding natural gas pipelines,” said Barrar. “We will specifically look at items such as response and evacuation in the case of an emergency to determine whether the current regulations
are adequate or need updating.”
Killion and Quinn forwarded a letter requesting the hearings to Barrar and state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-38, of Glenshaw, chairman of the corresponding Senate committee. Saying “ensuring public safety is a top priority for all involved,” Killion noted he has closely followed the developments in the township and surrounding communities and met with residents affected by the project.
Quinn, a former Middletown councilman, also cosponsored legislation to reauthorize a program to protect underground utility infrastructure and citizens from line hits during excavation projects. The program, known as PA One Call System, helps to ensure precautions are being taken to prevent damage to underground utilities and pipelines.
“When we first formed four weeks ago, we were viewed as hysterical parents,” said Miari. “As of Monday night, everyone involved knows we are definitely for real.”
Middletown resident Randall Sampson, whose two grandsons are future students at Glenwood Elementary School, held a sign in opposition to the proposed pipeline at a recent Rose Tree Media School Board meeting.