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Mariner East Decision Close as Pennsylvania Legislator Calls for Transparency

State Sen. Andrew Dinniman has asked the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to post all public comments to the official online docket as his case against Sunoco Pipeline LP, which has stopped service on Mariner East (ME) 1 and some construction on ME 2 and 2X, advances.

The PUC, Dinniman said, has made a decision that all public comments filed since last month would only be available for public viewing by request in person at the commission’s headquarters. Sunoco has appealed Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth Barnes’ order last month that indefinitely suspended service on ME 1 and stopped construction on a small stretch of ME 2 and 2X in West Whiteland Township.

Dinniman filed his complaint with the PUC earlier this year seeking the emergency order and questioning the safety of the entire ME project. The complaint was filed partly in response to another PUC order in March that shut down ME 1 after three sinkholes formed near it in West Whiteland. That order was eventually lifted and operations were allowed to resume until Barnes again halted operations.

“This is a basic matter of transparency,” Dinniman said in announcing his request. He added that the PUC has “a duty to make all public comments readily available on its website in order to encourage public dialogue and discussions on this issue.” 

Dozens of individuals, community organizations, townships, public officials and trade organizations have submitted comments about Barnes’ order. Some of those, including from the Chester County Commissioners and INEOS Group Ltd., have not been posted to the docket. Dinniman said he would post them to his website in the meantime.

In a letter supporting Range Resources Corp.’s opposition to the emergency order and ME 1 stoppage, Ineos said Barnes’ decision has created an “unpredictable and disconcerting regulatory environment for companies like Ineos who have made significant capital investments in Pennsylvania and substantial commitments to Pennsylvania business.”

Ineos is the largest ethane customer served by ME 1, which moves 70,000 b/d of both ethane and propane from Western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex on the other side of the state, where Ineos receives shipments for overseas deliveries to its crackers in Europe.

Range is ME 1’s anchor shipper. The first ME 1 outage stopped Ineos shipments. There’s limited storage available at Marcus Hook and purity ethane must be delivered via pipeline due to its high vapor pressure. ME 1 is currently the only pipeline serving the facility, but ME 2 and 2X would run parallel to it for about 350 miles to move more natural gas liquids from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Marcus Hook.

Sunoco has asked that the emergency order be lifted. The entire PUC is scheduled to meet on Thursday, when a decision could be made. 

If the emergency order is allowed to stand, Sunoco would be required to meet a laundry list of stipulations before ME 1 and construction on the other projects in West Whiteland is allowed to resume.

Dinniman, who represents citizens in Chester County living near the system’s right-of-way, has been a vocal critic of the ME project, joining local residents and other protesters on Saturday in a rally outside the Chester County Courthouse to oppose it.

 

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