The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved Sunoco Pipeline LP’s requests to modify permits at three horizontal directional drill (HDD) sites for its Mariner East natural gas pipeline system.

Mariner East

The DEP announced the approval earlier this week, which alters the pipeline developer’s erosion and sediment control, as well as the “water obstructions and encroachments” permitting.

The modifications primarily relate to pipeline installation methods at the HDD 620 site in Middletown Township, Delaware County; the HDD 280 site in Upper Uwchlan Township, Chester County; and the HDD 400 site in West Whiteland Township, also in Chester County.

“These approvals have undergone substantial and thorough reviews by technical staff, with careful consideration given to comments received from the public,” DEP Secretary Parick McDonnell said. “DEP remains committed to exercising its regulatory authority to the fullest extent possible under applicable laws, regulations and permits.

“We expect and anticipate that by approving these modifications, potential future impacts to the environment will be minimized, if not avoided entirely.”

Sunoco’s ME system, which consists of three pipelines in various stages of development and service, has had a troubled construction process in Pennsylvania. Drilling fluid spills, impacts to local water supplies and other violations during construction have led to millions in fines.

Earlier this month, the DEP ordered Sunoco to reroute part of the ME system, with McDonnell criticizing the company for “careless actions” during construction. Prior to that, Sunoco successfully challenged a DEP order calling on the developer to suspend activities at the HDD 360 site in West Whiteland Township. 

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Wednesday directed Sunoco to work with local officials in Cumberland County to schedule a “public awareness and public education meeting” for the ME system.

The PUC order upholds parts of a complaint filed by a Cumberland County resident living near the pipeline. The commission found, in part, that Sunoco “acted unreasonably by canceling its attendance at a scheduled public outreach meeting…without a valid excuse for the short-notice or reasons for canceling.”

Several other issues raised in the landowner’s complaint “are currently being considered as part of a broader PUC rulemaking related to pipeline safety, and should be considered in that ongoing process,” the PUC said. The commission also has ordered Sunoco to pay a $1,000 civil penalty.