Sinkholes, Spills and Contaminated Water: Sunoco's Legacy
The Mariner East 2 is a 350-mile pipeline that would carry dangerous gas liquids across the state of Pennsylvania, terminating at the Marcus Hook facility south of Philadelphia. It poses a serious safety risk to communities all along the pipeline route. But communities along the pipeline route have been organizing to stop it, and winning key victories along the way.
We know Sunoco cannot be trusted. Since construction commenced one year ago, there have been over 100 reported spills of drilling fluid. Sunoco’s reckless drilling contaminated the water supplies for 15 families in West Whiteland Township, and even punched an aquifer. Sunoco’s demonstrated negligence led a judge to order a halt to all drilling activities for several weeks in August 2017.
After months of inaction, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) finally stepped in and ordered a temporary halt to construction at the beginning of 2018. This motivated residents and activists to fight even harder to stop the project. In February, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection announced that it had settled with Sunoco, giving the company the green light to continue construction.
Despite these slaps on the wrist from Governor Wolf and his DEP, Sunoco has continued to show negligence. In March 2018, Sunoco’s construction activity caused sinkholes in Chester County’s West Whiteland Township, spurring the state’s Public Utility Commission to shut down the operation of the Mariner East 1 pipeline, an archaic 80-year old pipe already carrying these highly volatile liquids alongside the path of Mariner East 2.
Sunoco Has Been Slowed Down, but Not Stopped
The delays to the project give us more time to keep organizing. While we organize locally, we will continue to pressure Governor Wolf to do the right thing. He pushed behind the scenes to approve Sunoco’s construction permits, and his response to the early rounds of spills and water contamination was to say that these pipelines are necessary to live “the life we want to live.”
We refuse to put our homes, schools, water and future at risk, just so Sunoco can make billions by exporting fracked gas liquids to Europe to make plastics.
This pipeline isn't just a threat to local safety while it's being built. It will do damage if it's completed. Sunoco has the worst spill record of any oil pipeline company in the country, and the contents that will be carried in the Mariner East 2 are especially dangerous: colorless, odorless highly volatile liquids that are extremely explosive. Sunoco’s plan is to transport these materials at very high pressures through densely populated communities, to get them to the port of Philadelphia for export.
How Do We Stop Them for Good?
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has the power to protect Pennsylvanians from Mariner East 2. Wolf’s DEP allowed construction on the pipeline to start, granting permits even though Sunoco’s application was riddled with deficiencies. Wolf also appoints the commissioners to the PUC, which has given Sunoco free reign to route their pipeline through densely populated communities.
In places such as West Goshen and Uwchlan, Sunoco is not complying with laws specifically passed to keep us safe. According to existing local laws and regulations, all pipelines must be setback from occupied buildings far enough so that those buildings are not within a pipeline’s blast radius.
The blast radius for the ME2 is over 1,000 feet. Sunoco is currently breaking this law in West Goshen and Uwchlan. Enforcing this law would make finishing the pipeline exceedingly difficult.
In the 2017 municipal elections, anti-pipeline candidates won races for Township Supervisor in West Goshen and Uwchlan Townships, flipping the majority of the Boards in the two communities. Thousands of voters within the blast radius of this pipeline expressed their anger in the ballot box by voting for these candidates. And state and federal elected officials have also joined the movement against the Mariner East 2 pipeline: Over 12 local, state, and federal elected officials, Republicans and Democrats alike, have made statements opposing the pipeline.
What Can I Do?
Sunoco is determined to finish building this dangerous pipeline. By turning up the pressure on Governor Wolf, we can win.
Please join this effort by texting ME2 to 69866, and take action here.
The Mariner East 2 is not like a normal pipeline
It carries exceptionally dangerous ethane, propane, butane, and pentane, materials called Highly Volatile Liquids. It does not carry ‘natural gas’ that we’d typically use to heat our homes or operate a kitchen stove. When super-pressurized in the pipeline, highly volatile liquids are in the liquid state. However, once a leak occurs, these chemicals vaporize, becoming a low-lying cloud of explosive, odorless gas. They do not disperse into the air. They travel with the wind. And once they find an ignition source, they explode.
There is no oversight of the placement of the pipeline
No state or federal agency has reviewed and permitted the siting of the pipeline. The technical construction and crossing of waterways have been permitted, but no governmental officials have reviewed whether the path of this pipeline is safe for Pennsylvania communities. Instead, Sunoco is routing this pipeline solely for its own corporate convenience. It will be built near homes, apartment buildings, and even assisted living facilities. Over 40 schools are located within its blast zone. The company has used the threat of eminent domain to bully landowners to clear trees and start construction, all for their own profits.
Sunoco’s safety record
According to one recent evaluation of government safety records, Sunoco has had more oil leaks than any other pipeline company in the country. People in the affected communities feel like it’s only a matter of time before a disaster strikes. And they know that when it does happen, there is no way to keep them safe. There is no feasible evacuation plan if you happen to live, or send your kids to school, within the “blast zone.” And there are no adequate plans for evacuation given the population density in the affected areas.