Mariner East Pipeline

The Role of West Whiteland Township in the Mariner East Pipeline Project

Oil and gas pipelines are regulated by the federal and state governments, not by local governments. West Whiteland Township did not have any regulatory authority over Sunoco’s re-purposing of Mariner East pipelines already in operation or construction of Mariner East 2 and 2X. The Township does not have enforcement or regulatory authority over the location of underground transmission pipelines, whether a pipeline is constructed by horizontal directional drilling (HDD) or open trench construction, or the type of product that will flow through the new pipelines or any of the existing pipelines. To the extent there are regulations for underground transmission pipeline siting, methods of construction or use, they are enforced by federal and state agencies.

Nevertheless, there are some things the Township can do to make a difference, including: 

  • Supervisors and staff will continue to intercede with Sunoco to address construction impact on adjacent residents and businesses where possible. 
  • Since Sunoco’s construction started in 2017, Township Supervisors and staff and volunteers from the West Whiteland Fire Company have attended countless hours of pipeline training. Residents who participated in Neighborhood University saw the top-notch facilities used by first responders at the Chester County Public Safety Training Campus. West Whiteland Township and West Whiteland Fire Company will continue to work closely with the Chester County Department of Emergency Services on emergency response planning and training. 
  • In 2019, the Board of Supervisors hired a consultant with pipeline expertise to prepare a report that was used as a basis for county-wide comments to the PUC for the initial phase of a rulemaking process to upgrade pipeline safety regulations in Pennsylvania. The PUC now has released draft regulations for comment.  The same consultant provided a report, which the Board of Supervisors incorporated into their comments on the draft regulations.    

Township Actions:

July 2021: The Board of Supervisors issued a statement explaining why they were not filing an emergency petition with the PUC, which would have been expensive and fruitless, and instead actions the Township took to advocate for residents impacted from construction and calling for calm.

June 2021: In response to questions, the Township issued a statement explaining how state law preempts local governments from issuing zoning permits for pipeline infrastructure, including automatic shutoff valves.

June 2021: The Board of Supervisors sent a letter to the Meadowbrook Manor neighborhood with an update about pipeline construction and Township efforts to mitigate the impact.

April 2021: The Board of Supervisors sent a letter to the PUC asking for an update on the status of the two rulemaking processes for pipeline safety regulations started in 2019.

September 2020:  The Board of Supervisors sent a letter to Governor Wolf expressing their ongoing concerns about the environmental, safety and neighbor impacts from pipeline construction and asking him to take action to protect the community.  The Governor responded by describing actions taken by DEP.

August 2020:  On August 8th, Energy Transfer’s pipeline construction at the Shoen Road drill site caused an apparent inadvertent return of drilling mud in a seep by the road.  As a result of the inadvertent return, DEP shut down construction at the drill site.  Energy Transfer filed an appeal of DEP’s decision to shut down the drill site with the Environmental Hearing Board.  An EHB administrative law judge granted ET temporary approval to resume drilling at Shoen Road, pending the outcome of the appeal.  On August 26th, the West Whiteland Board of Supervisors filed a petition with the Environmental Hearing Board to intervene in the appeal.  On August 28th, ET withdrew their appeal, making the Township's petition moot.

ET agreed to enhance measures at the drill site, including having additional personnel and frac tanks there to avoid evening hauling of groundwater.  That was one small accommodation to the Township's and residents repeated complaints about noise at night.  ET is allowed to keep drilling.

June - July 2020:  Energy Transfer bored under Lincoln Highway and the Chester Valley Trail to install casing for the new pipelines. The sinkholes followed the construction path of the bore and did not expose any nearby pipelines in operation or create hazards in Lincoln Highway.  DEP and the PUC were on site to inspect the sinkholes.

Between June 13th and July 20th, numerous sinkholes, underground voids, and ground cracking were discovered in that area.  The PUC continues to investigate.  They are requiring Energy Transfer to conduct geophysical testing, which will be reviewed by the PUC, to determine whether there are  other underground openings.  They also are requiring ET to assign workers to monitor 24/7 for signs of any more sinkholes or earth disturbances and to use ground penetrating radar several times daily.

Township officials urged the PUC to require thorough testing to confirm the integrity of the nearby operating pipelines, Lincoln Highway and Chester Valley Trail.  The PUC confirmed that geophysical testing will continue at least until work is completed on the installation of the pipes.  

July 2020:  West Whiteland Township  received many complaints about the loud pounding noise from pipeline construction near Corner Park Apartments.  Township officials complained to Energy Transfer repeatedly and even demanded that they stop work but lacked the legal authority to shut down the loud pounding work.

Township officials reached out to state regulators looking for help. While sympathetic to what neighbors were enduring, both the PUC and DEP confirmed that the casing installation, which is the cause of the pounding, needed to be completed properly to follow best practices in pipeline construction. 

The Township did secure one small concession.  Energy Transfer and their contractor agreed to limit work that involved pounding to 8:30 am to 6:00 pm, instead of the regularly permitted hours of 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, Monday through Saturday.  The casing installation was completed on July 27th.  

March 2020:  West Whiteland granted Sunoco a waiver to work 24/7 while they installed both pipelines under Pottstown Pike via direct bore.  The pipeline construction, as well as landscape and road restoration, is complete.  

January 7, 2020:  The Board submitted comments to DEP regarding Sunoco’s permit modification request to change the installation method for the 2nd pipeline in the segment that includes Lisa Drive.

October 9, 2019: The PUC adopted a Proposed Rulemaking Order to require annual depreciation reporting, service life study reporting, and capital investment reporting by crude oil, gasoline and petroleum products transportation pipeline public utilities under 52 Pa. Code Chapter 73. The proposed revisions would require those companies to comply with reporting requirements already in place for electric, gas and water public utilities. The Board of Supervisors submitted comments in support of the Proposed Rulemaking, while also urging that such studies be released to the public.

September 25, 2019: The Board of Supervisors asked the PUC to consider shutting down the operating 8 and 12" pipelines behind Lisa Drive if the DEP issues permits that would allow construction of a new pipeline there; and if not, to explain how it is safe to construct a pipeline in an area that has been subject to subsidence and is now filled with grout.

September 2019:  West Whiteland Residents for Pipeline Safety and Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety asked the Board of Supervisors to file a petition for emergency relief with the PA PUC seeking a pause in operation and construction of Energy Transfer’s Mariner East pipelines because of concerns about the safety of pipeline construction methods used by Energy Transfer’s contractor. Filing an emergency petition and complaint with the PUC is equivalent to filing a lawsuit. Before the Board of Supervisors can decide whether to file, they need to know there is substantial evidence supporting any claims that would be made in the petition. The Board hired a pipeline consultant to evaluate the construction methods. That report concluded that the proposed construction methods are safe as long as appropriate maintenance and testing occur as planned. To find out more about Energy Transfer’s ongoing and planned maintenance, particularly regrading corrosion prevention, the Board is looking into obtaining an additional assessment.  They also requested information from PHMSA.

August 2019: The Board of Supervisors submitted comments in response to an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Order for pipeline safety regulations. That process solicited comments regarding the amendment and enhancement of the PA Public Utility Code to enable the PUC to more comprehensively regulate public utilities which transport petroleum products and other hazardous liquids in intrastate commerce. Unlike the Proposed Rulemaking, which lays out the specific regulatory changes under consideration, an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking starts the process at an earlier stage, with a period for more general comments about the topics to be addressed in the regulatory amendment process. West Whiteland worked with other municipalities to incorporate recommendations from the March 2019 report below in extensive comments submitted to the PUC. The Board of Supervisors also submitted a separate concurring comment letter.

March 2019: The Board of Supervisors commissioned a report from Accufacts Inc. to get an overview of the regulatory environment for pipeline safety regulations at the state level and recommendations for areas to focus on for improvement in Pennsylvania. The report is a first step, serving to better inform Township advocacy for enhanced pipeline safety regulations. The next step will be to work with others to advocate for upgrades to state regulations - and the resources to effectively enforce those regulations - that will increase the safety of pipelines throughout Pennsylvania.

On March 19, 2019, members of the Board of Supervisors joined residents at a rally in Harrisburg urging the Governor, legislators and regulators to halt the construction and operations of all Mariner East pipelines.

On February 11, 2019, the Board of Supervisors petitioned to intervene In Re: Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement v. Sunoco Pipeline, L.P., a/k/a Energy Transfer Partners, Docket Number C-2018-3006534. 

On February 4, 2019, the Board of Supervisors petitioned to intervene In Re: Meghan Flynn, et al. v. Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. Docket Numbers: C-2018-3006116; P-2018-3006117.

On November 16, 2018, PHMSA replied to the Board of Supervisor’s October 30 letter regarding the hydrostatic testing of their 12" pipeline.

On October 30, 2018, the Board of Supervisors sent letters to the PA Public Utility Commission and the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration requesting that Sunoco repeat the hydrostatic test of their 12” pipeline.  The letter is the same as that previously sent to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

On September 4, 2018 PHMSA replied to the Board of Supervisors’ letter regarding concerns about the proposed re-purposing of an existing 12-inch Sunoco Logistics pipeline from petroleum products to natural gas liquids (NGLs).

On August 8, 2018, the Board of Supervisors voted to donate $2,000 to the Del-Chesco United risk assessment.

On July 20, 2018, the Board of Supervisors sent letters to the US. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) seeking information about Sunoco’s plans to repurpose an existing 12” pipeline to transport natural gas liquids. The 12" pipeline previously carried refined petroleum products but has not been in use recently in West Whiteland. In June 2018, Sunoco notified PHMSA of their plans to repurpose that pipeline to carry natural gas liquids as a way to allow Sunoco to meet its customer obligations on the Mariner East 2 pipeline while work on the Mariner East system continues, including the re-evaluation of existing construction plans
for some of the horizontal directional drills; and to make any appropriate modifications. When construction is completed, the 12-inch line will be returned to refined products service. When construction is completed, Sunoco plans to return the 12-inch line to refined products service. Sunoco also provided information about this proposed changed to the Township.

The Board of Supervisors sought more information about the regulatory review process at the federal and state levels such as: What approvals are needed? And, if the pipeline is repurposed, what steps would be taken to ensure it could safely operate at high pressure carrying natural gas liquids so close to homes, businesses and gathering places such as schools and churches?  

On June 28, 2018, the Board of Supervisors petitioned to intervene In Re: Pennsylvania State Senator Andrew E. Dinniman v. Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. a/k/a/ Energy Transfer Partners, Docket Number: C-2018-3001451; P-2018-3001453.

On June 1, 2018, the Board of Supervisors submitted a letter to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in support of Senator Dinniman’s emergency petition and complaint against Sunoco and asking the PUC to uphold the Administrative Law Judge’s Order suspending Mariner East operations and construction. 

On May 11, 2018, West Whiteland submitted comments about modifications Sunoco has requested for erosion and sedimentation control permits issued by the PA Department of Environmental Protection.

On March 19, 2018, the Board of Supervisors hosted a public Question and Answer session with state regulators on the Mariner East pipeline project.

On February 14, 2018, the Board of Supervisors held a listening session at their public meeting to hear firsthand from residents their concerns and experiences with the Mariner East pipeline project.

On February 13, 2018, the Board of Supervisors submitted a motion to intervene in the FERC process for Adelphia Gateway, LLC’s, Abbreviated Application for Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity Authorizing Acquisition, Construction, and Operation of Certain Pipeline Facilities and for Related Authorizations.

On September 21, 2017, the Township hosted a public meeting on pipeline safety.

On July 13, 2017, the Township hosted a meeting with representatives from Sunoco and Aqua and homeowners whose well water had been impacted by pipeline drilling.  The meeting followed advocacy by the Township to address the homeowners' concerns, which contributed to an agreement by Sunoco to pay to connect the homes to Aqua's public water system.