DEP OKs Mariner East 2 pipeline project

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Monday approved permit applications for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project, the route of which can be seen here. - (Photo / Sunoco Logistics)

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Monday approved key permits for the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which will pass through the heart of the midstate as it crosses the commonwealth from west to east.

Mariner East 2 is a $2.5 billion, 350-mile pipeline project that will traverse Pennsylvania from Washington County in the west to Delaware County in the east. The pipeline’s route crosses Cumberland County, as well as parts of York, Dauphin, Lebanon and Lancaster counties.

Undertaken by Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, the pipeline will carry primarily propane and butane from the Marcellus and Utica shale areas of Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania to Sunoco’s Marcus Hook Industrial Complex on the Delaware River near Philadelphia.

Supported by business and political leaders as an economic development tool, the 20-inch line nevertheless has been controversial among landowners and environmentalists. Its backers had to contend with multiple legal challenges prior to Monday’s DEP approval of water- and sediment-related permits.

“In a comprehensive process spanning more than 2 ½ years — one that included unprecedented public input — Sunoco Logistics provided detailed plans to minimize impacts to the environment, protected species and cultural resources,” the company said in a statement released Monday evening.

“We are proud of those efforts and are committed to these important priorities.”

DEP also expressed pride at the outcome.

“This was a huge undertaking – holding five hearings during a 60-day comment period, reviewing permit applications and technical deficiencies for more than 20,000 hours, responding to 29,000 comments, and ensuring Sunoco addressed deficiencies identified in its initial applications,” Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said.

Sunoco officials said they can now begin construction throughout Pennsylvania in accordance with the permits, with estimated completion in the third quarter of this year. 

However, Monday’s action does not mark the completion of all necessary regulatory approvals.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Sunoco must now seek authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in order to proceed.

In addition, DEP said its oversight does not cease with granting the permits.

“This is not the end of the process, as DEP, working in conjunction with the Public Utility Commission, will continue to hold the project accountable to regulatory standards that protect the environment and ensure the health, public safety, and welfare of local communities,” McDonnell said.

Sunoco said Mariner East 2 “will be built and operated to standards that meet or in many cases exceed federal pipeline safety regulations, using 75,000 tons of steel pipe, 100-percent made in America.”

A report by the Philadelphia Inquirer suggested that environmental groups, including the Clean Air Council and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, are expected to appeal to the Environmental Hearing Board.

Roger DuPuis
Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com.

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