Bat­tle of Mariner 2 East is heat­ing up

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE -

De­spite an eco­nomic up­side, Sunoco’s pipe­line plan is caus­ing dis­tress in the com­mu­ni­ties along the route.

It now ap­pears the bat­tle lines are drawn.

Call it the Bat­tle of Mariner East 2.

For weeks we have been de­tail­ing the grum­bling in the com­mu­nity over Sunoco Lo­gis­tics’ plans to build a new pipe­line to carry hun­dreds of thou­sands of bar­rels Mar­cel­lus Shale byprod­ucts such as eth­ane, propane and bu­tane to the for­mer Sunoco re­fin­ery in Mar­cus Hook.

The plan has a huge eco­nomic up­side, in­clud­ing the prospect of hun­dreds of good-pay­ing jobs.

On the other side, there is a clear dis­tress among some in the com­mu­nity on a num­ber of fac­tors, in­clud­ing safety and prop­erty val­ues. Many are less than thrilled that some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and school dis­tricts en­tered into agree­ments for ease­ments with Sunoco Lo­gis­tics with­out much in the way of pub­lic com­ment, or at least what they would have liked.

They mo­bi­lized, even form­ing a grass­roots group to op­pose the plan, in par­tic­u­lar the idea of al­low­ing a new pipe­line to be built just a stone’s throw away an ele­men­tary school in Mid­dle­town.

Mid­dle­town Town­ship now seems poised to spend a good chunk of money on a new quan­ti­ta­tive risk as­sess­ment study of the pro­posal. They will vote for­mally on the mea­sure, but it seems a fore­gone con­clu­sion that they will ap­prove it af­ter more than 60 res­i­dents de­scended on the town­ship coun­cil meet­ing to of­fer new con­cerns about the pipe­line plan – and the town­ship’s seem­ingly cozy re­la­tion­ship with Sunoco.

Back in Septem­ber the coun­cil voted to ap­prove a $1.8 mil­lion deal to grant ease­ments for Sunoco. Other com­mu­ni­ties also have signed off on con­tracts with Sunoco. In the mean­time, grum­bling in the com­mu­nity has been steady, and get­ting louder.

With a new risk as­sess­ment study, cit­i­zens hope to be able to iden­tify what kinds of emer­gen­cies could oc­cur as a re­sult of a leak; what the po­ten­tial im­pact zones might be; along with es­tab­lish­ing evac­u­a­tion zones.

This week Sunoco Lo­gis­tics weighed in, again try­ing to ease com­mu­nity con­cern, in part by say­ing that fed­eral reg­u­la­tions al­ready in place for pipe­lines al­ready ad­dress the con­cerns be­ing ad­dressed in the com­mu­nity.

Pipe­lines in Penn­syl­va­nia are not ex­actly new. Sunoco fer­ried oil through the county for decades. The big­gest dif­fer­ence is the amount of ma­te­ri­als in the new pipe­line, which would great in­crease ca­pac­ity.

This week the com­pany also noted that West Goshen, in Ch­ester County, hired a na­tion­ally rec­og­nized firm Ac­cu­facts to an­a­lyze the Mariner East 1 project. The study found Sunoco goes far be­yond fed­eral safety re­quire­ments to en­sure safe op­er­a­tion of the pipe­line.

Statis­tics that show in the last 20 years, for all op­er­a­tors of liq­uids pipe­lines in Penn­syl­va­nia (such as Mariner East 1 and 2) there have been no deaths re­sult­ing from pipe­line re­leases and only two in­juries.

Sunoco of­fi­cials also said noted that of all re­leases re­ported by Sunoco Pipe­line in the last 10 years, 70 per­cent were on com­pany grounds, not the pub­lic right-of-ways.

As pro­posed, Mariner East 2 will span 350 miles across three states — Ohio, West Vir­ginia and Penn­syl­va­nia.

It is the ar­guably one of the most im­por­tant eco­nomic sto­ries in the en­tire re­gion.

It has a huge eco­nomic up­side.

But it also has sparked le­git­i­mate con­cerns.

Don’t look for this dis­cus­sion to end any­time soon.

Statis­tics that show in the last 20 years, for all op­er­a­tors of liq­uids pipe­lines in Penn­syl­va­nia (such as Mariner East 1 and 2) there have been no deaths re­sult­ing from pipe­line re­leases and only two in­juries.

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