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Pennsylvania Yanks All Pending Permits, Approvals for Energy Transfer Projects

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Friday suspended reviews of water permits and other pending approvals for every Energy Transfer LP (ET) project in the state, alleging the company has failed to comply with an order it issued last year after one of the company’s pipelines exploded in Beaver County. 

The suspension, DEP said, would remain in effect until ET affiliate ETC Northeast Pipeline LLC corrects violations discovered after part of the Revolution system blew up in Center Township last September. The permit hold would affect not only the Revolution pipeline’s return to service but also the completion of the Mariner East (ME) 2 and 2X pipeline projects on the other side of the state.

DEP last October ordered the company to stop all work on the damaged Revolution system in the aftermath of the explosion and directed the company to immediately stabilize disturbed areas and repair erosion controls, which it has struggled to do since, partly due to the area’s terrain.

“Multiple inspections by DEP staff, most recently in January 2019, found that ET had not fulfilled the terms of the order and was not progressing toward compliance,” Secretary Patrick McDonnell said Friday. DEP issued the order in October after earlier inspections discovered numerous violations, including unreported landslides and unpermitted construction activities.

ET spokesperson Alexis Daniel stressed that the suspension does not affect the operation of any of the company’s in-service pipelines or areas of construction where permits have already been issued.

“We have communicated to the DEP and to the governor’s office that we are committed to bringing this project into full compliance with all environmental permits and applicable regulations,” she said of Revolution.

Friday’s announcement only complicates things for ET in the state. Affiliate Sunoco Pipeline LP’s ME 1 system remains offline after it was shut down Jan. 20 when a sinkhole exposed the system in Chester County. It wasn’t the first time that’s happened, as Sunoco was forced to start partial service last month on ME 2 using an old refined products pipeline after state regulators forced it to stop work on a small stretch of the mainline and get new permits from DEP when other sinkholes formed in the same area.

Those injunctions remain in effect. DEP said Friday that there are 27 approvals currently under review for the ME 2 natural gas liquids projects that are impacted by the suspension.

Friday’s announcement prompted Gov. Tom Wolf to again chastise ET, saying “there has been a failure by” the company and “its subsidiaries to respect our laws and our communities. This is not how we strive to do business in Pennsylvania, and it will not be tolerated.”

Revolution, a 100-mile system that moves 400 MMcf/d of natural gas from Butler County, PA, to Washington County, PA, has been offline since the explosion in Center Township. ET has said torrential rain and saturated ground that has plagued the region over much of the last year likely caused the pipeline to slip and explode.

DEP said Friday that the suspension would not apply to any approvals needed for ET to ultimately comply with the October order. The agency also said it could eventually take additional enforcement action to address the ongoing issues.

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