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Pennsylvania Congressman Requests Risk Assessment for ME2 Pipeline

Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan has asked Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration to back a “risk assessment” for the Mariner East (ME) 2 pipeline to help the public better understand potential hazards associated with the natural gas liquids project.

Meehan, a Republican, represents portions of southeast Pennsylvania, including suburban Philadelphia, where dozens of spills have been reported during ME 2 construction. He sent a letter to Wolf earlier this month calling for the risk assessment after “numerous meetings with constituents alarmed about the potential safety implications” of the project. He said residents from his district have “repeatedly requested” that the state conduct and publicize a risk assessment. 

While Meehan acknowledged the economic benefits of the project, and said he was encouraged by a settlement that Sunoco reached with environmental groups calling for more safeguards during construction, he said residents “remain worried” amid reports of undisclosed drilling fluid leaks and unauthorized construction methods.

“A risk assessment would be a welcome and responsible step in providing residents with the information they need to better understand the construction and operation of this pipeline and any potential effects it may have on a densely populated community,” Meehan wrote in the letter.

The 350-mile pipeline would carry ethane, butane and propane from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near Philadelphia for domestic and international distribution. While state courts have acknowledged the project’s mixed intrastate and interstate nature, it has certificates of public convenience from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), giving Wolf and state regulators oversight of the project. ME2 would run parallel to the ME 1 pipeline that is already in service.

Sunoco continues to maintain that its operating procedures transcend federal and state guidelines, noting that it has worked closely with state regulators throughout the construction process.

The administration has said the governor is open to a risk assessment, but it would ultimately be up to the PUC to conduct one. The commission is currently reviewing Meehan’s request, a spokesman said.

Regulatory setbacks have plagued the project since last year, forcing parent Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP) to delay the in-service date to 2Q2018. Most recently, the PUC ordered construction halted on a valve station in West Goshen, PA, after it discovered that the company planned to install the equipment at a location not specified in a settlement agreement with the township. The junction was lifted last week after Sunoco abandoned plans to build the valve station.

The company still has plans for a third ME pipeline that would run parallel to ME 2. The three pipelines, combined with Mariner West, which moves Marcellus ethane to Canada, would have a capacity of up to 800,000 b/d. ETP said in November bout 99% of the ME 2 mainline should be buried by the end of this year.

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