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Pennsylvania Fines Sunoco For Spills During Mariner East Construction

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has fined Sunoco Logistics Partners LP $95,000 for several spills of bentonite, or drilling mud, in the southwest part of the state that occurred last year during construction of its Mariner East project.

A consent agreement signed by the company also says it must pay nearly $2,000 to conservation districts in Washington and Allegheny counties for their efforts to help contain and clean up the spills.

The spills primarily occurred between September and November 2014, as Sunoco worked to extend its existing Mariner East 1, a former oil pipeline, between Delmont, PA, and Houston, PA. The line has been converted to deliver Appalachian natural gas liquids (NGL) to the company's Marcus Hook Industrial Complex on the Delaware River south of Philadelphia.

The company extended the line to pick-up NGLs from MarkWest Energy Partners LP's Houston Processing and Fractionation facility. DEP said Sunoco failed to prevent "sediment-laden runoff" from the project in Washington, Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.

Construction is expected to begin next year on the 350-mile Mariner East 2, which would transport ethane, butane and propane from western Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Marcus Hook (see Shale Daily, Dec. 5, 2013). The company is also considering a third pipeline to follow roughly the same path (see Shale Daily, June 4). The fine comes at a time when Sunoco has been facing strong resistance from environmentalists and communities, particularly in the southeast part of the state that's removed from Marcellus Shale drilling occurring in the southwest and northeast (see Shale Daily, Oct. 13, 2014; April 28, 2014).

Sunoco did not comment about its consent agreement with the DEP. The agency said one of the spills resulted in more than 5,000 gallons of nontoxic bentonite that eventually made its way about two miles  into a creek in Washington County. The DEP plans to deposit the fine into the state's Clean Water fund.

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