Pipeline system falls under criminal investigation

Even as Energy Transfer LP of Dallas announced the opening of a new Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, it’s original Mariner system came under criminal investigation.

A county prosecutor in Pennsylvania opened the probe into construction on the three natural gas liquids pipelines after they caused sinkholes and polluted drinking water and waterways in the southern part of the state.

Chester County district attorney Tom Hogan notified Energy Transfer by mail demanding it hand over and save a list of documents and electronic records.  He later issued a statement after sending the 5-page letter and demanded that “every aspect of these pipelines be conducted safely, or we will bring into play all of the tools of the criminal justice system.”

He also charged that Gov. Tom Wolf and state regulators had not done their jobs.

“Quite frankly, I thought the governor or the Public Utility Commission would step in and make sure it’s being done safely, and it became apparent to us that it was not,” Hogan said in an interview.

Hogan also accused the company of treating Chester County residents poorly, frightening people who had complained with “subtle and not-so-subtle bullying.”

As OK Energy Today reported this week, Energy Transfer announced its Mariner East 2 pipeline went operational on Monday. It is part of the company’s Mariner East system of lines designed to provide NGL takeaway capacity for the Marcellus and Utica Shale production areas in Eastern Ohio, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania.

 

Hogan is targeting Sunoco Pipeline’s Mariner East 1, 2 and 2X projects stretching across southern Pennsylvania. The projects have weathered more than $13 million in fines and at least two temporary shutdown orders from state agencies, while residents living along the pipelines are suing the parent company, Energy Transfer LP of Dallas, Texas, in federal court.

Energy Transfer said in a statement it is confident that it hasn’t violated criminal laws and called the allegations “baseless.”

It also said it has worked closely with state officials and inspectors to respond to citizen concerns and that safety “is our first priority and this project was planned and implemented based on that fact.”

Hogan said a company lawyer contacted his office Wednesday to see if they could sit down for a discussion.

The pipeline construction is blamed for sinkholes that developed within 50 feet (15 meters) of homes and near an Amtrak rail line in southeastern Pennsylvania, drawing a temporary shutdown order.

Environmental advocacy groups tried unsuccessfully to halt the construction, saying it would unleash massive and irreparable damage to the state’s environment and residents.

Hogan said he is investigating potential crimes, including causing or risking a catastrophe, criminal mischief, environmental violations and corrupt organizations by everyone from pipeline workers to corporate officers.

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