Pipeline debate can’t be avoided in local counties
The battle lines have been drawn.
The evidence is clearly discernible, and it’s not pretty. Clearing the way for a pipeline rarely is. Mariner East 2 is coming. Construction is underway for Sunoco Logistics’ pipeline, a massive undertaking that literally will traverse the 350-mile width of Pennsylvania.
When it is up and running, Mariner East 2 will deliver as much as 350,000 barrels of Marcellus Shale products such as ethane, propane and butane to the former Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook.
But to get there it first has to traverse a path through the region, most noticeably in Chester and Delaware counties.
Through developments, apartment complexes, and in close proximity to elementary schools.
If the construction underway to make room for the pipeline is ugly, and there really is no other way to describe it, the heated rhetoric surrounding the project is beginning to match it.
Bottom line, while many municipalities and school districts signed off on this deal early, taking Sunoco Logistics’ money in the process, more and more people in the community are beginning to question the project, and the entire notion of running these kinds of combustible materials under high pressure through densely populated areas.
They want to know what should happen in the event of a leak, or, God forbid, an explosion.
The answers are even more ugly than the earthmoving project currently underway to make room for the pipeline.
This week more than 350 residents packed a meeting in East Goshen in Chester County.
Many sounded the same kind of alarm as has been pushed in Delaware County for months, questioning the safety of such a proposal.
Perhaps East Goshen resident Mary McCloskey broke it down to its simplest form.
“I don’t feel safe,” she told the panel, including representatives from Sunoco.
As you might guess, that sentiment is not shared by Sunoco Logistics, which has repeatedly insisted construction and security of the pipeline is a top company concern. It should also be noted that Mariner East 1, utilizing the same pipeline that Sunoco used for decades to deliver oil, already is delivering these same types of gases safely. Granted, Mariner East 2, and the mount of material being moved, will up that ante considerably.
Then there is the economic aspect. It is not one to be ignored. Mariner East 2 already is providing hundreds of good-paying job. A new report out this week lauded the potential of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania, saying the industry was contributing $24.5 billion to the state’s economy. Currently there are 178,000 jobs in the Keystone State tied to natural gas. That’s 3.1 percent of all jobs in the state. By the year 2040, industry analysts suggest 6 million jobs could be created in the state.
The Chamber of Commerce and local officials are backing the pipeline plan, while others protest on the grounds of safety.
The question is one no one really wants to think about, let alone answer: “What if….”
Several property owners in Delaware County tried taking Sunoco to court, claiming the pipeline violated township zoning codes, but the case was thrown out.
The concerns of the community have reached the ears of some legislators.
This week state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9, said he would introduce legislation that would allow some of the impact fees paid by the natural gas industry to be directed to communities affected by the pipeline so they can adequately address public safety needs.
The debate over Mariner East 2, and whether it’s a good idea to build it in densely populated areas, is not going to go away anytime soon.
By the looks of the work currently going on, it’s not going to stop the plan either.
The challenge now is to make sure it is safe – both now and in the future.
And making sure Pennsylvania gets its money’s worth – in the form of a real severance tax – would not be a bad idea either.