UPPER UWCHLAN — Mariner East 2 pipeline builder Sunoco/Energy Transfer had been charged with 48 counts of environmental crimes, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Tuesday at Marsh Creek State Park in Chester County, a few miles east of Berks County.
A grand jury reviewed evidence during an 18-month investigation regarding allegations of violations of the Clean Streams Law and related laws.
Shapiro spoke at the press conference as a bald eagle fished for breakfast behind him and a lone kayaker held a protest sign high above her head.
The attorney general told reporters and an audience of about 20 impacted residents that the state’s power was “limited,” and the pipeline builder might face monetary fines through a trial; no one would likely be arrested.
“We charged everywhere we could possibly charge,” Shapiro said.
He also said that only the Department of Environmental Protection has the power to pull construction permits.
Sunoco/ET did not respond to a request for comment.
Construction was stopped at the lake following an August 2020 discharge in excess of 21,000 gallons, with 33 acres of the watershed still closed to the public.
Shapiro noted while standing in front of a podium with a banner that read, Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General/Environmental Crimes Section, that the state Constitution guarantees Pennsylvanians’ right to clean air and pure water.
The attorney general, a presumed candidate for governor next year, said that Sunoco/ET had not notified the Department of Environmental Protection every time a spill of drilling fluid occurred during high pressured Horizontal Directional Drilling.
“Energy Transfer knew but chose not to report until fluid appeared on the surface,” Shapiro said. “Many losses were never reported to the DEP despite what Energy Transfer knew.
“This happened all across the Commonwealth.”
Sunoco/ET was also charged with using unapproved chemicals which can irritate the eyes.
The attorney general wants to set an example for other companies working in Pennsylvania.
“If they break our criminal laws there will be consequences,” he said.
Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan thanked the Attorney General’s Office for holding Sunoco/ET accountable for these “continuing and devastating environmental violations.”
“Although my office filed a civil complaint against these perpetrators to stop their egregious behavior, we made the referral to the Office of the Attorney General to assist us with these issues because of their vast resources and expertise in environmental law,” Ryan said.
Food and Water Watch organizer Ginny Marcille-Kerslake released the following statement: “The Mariner East disaster is Governor Wolf’s responsibility. He must stop this right now, and we will continue to fight to make sure that he does. Our communities should not be jeopardized so that a major polluter can have another pipeline to ship dangerous liquids that will be turned into plastic junk.”
Clean Air Council’s Joseph Otis Minott weighed in.
“Residents have fought tirelessly to defend their right to clean air and water in the face of Energy Transfer’s ongoing abuse,” he said. “We welcome the attorney general stepping up to support them.”
As part of a joint statement, Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline wrote: “Holding Energy Transfer accountable for their actions is long overdue. We are delighted to hear of today’s action by Attorney General Shapiro. Energy Transfer has shown itself to be a poor corporate citizen in Chester County. Now it is the Pennsylvania Legislature’s turn to take action and enact stronger laws that will protect our citizens and environment.”
The Mariner East Pipeline weaves 350 miles across Pennsylvania through mostly existing right-of-way from Marcelus shale deposits in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. It will carry the excess from fracking close by to more than 40 schools, Chester County Library and nursing homes. The highly volatile product will be used overseas to make plastics.
Source: Berkshire mont