Pennsylvania Attorney General and likely gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro refused to answer questions about his last-second decision to cancel a press conference targeting “a developer of the Mariner East Pipeline” just minutes before it was scheduled to begin.
After issuing a notice Monday morning for a press conference at Marsh Creek State Park in Upper Uwchlan in Chester County for 11:30 a.m., Delaware Valley Journal received an email from the AG’s Office claiming “additional information,” as the reason for the delay.
Pitched as an announcement of a “major environmental crimes case,” Shapiro’s office had set up a YouTube page to stream the presser with the headline, “AG Shapiro Charges Mariner East Developer With Environmental Crimes.” But it suddenly pulled the page — and the plug.
Asked for additional information, a Shapiro spokesperson reissued the same statement: “Today’s event will be temporarily postponed due to new information received by the Office of the Attorney General this morning. We must do our due diligence and review. We will have more to say on this shortly.”
When pressed by Delaware Valley Journal for more details the response was, “No charges have been filed at this time.” While Shapiro did not state the entity to be charged in his press release, it was listed on a link for offsite reporters.
Shapiro, an Abington resident, is widely believed to be the likely Democratic nominee for governor, although he has yet to formally announce his candidacy. Supporters of the pipeline and the jobs that it creates have long accused some Democrats of using the energy project as a punching bag to score political points with their progressive base.
For example, in April the Chester County district attorney’s office released a statement touting a “civil suit” against Energy Transfer suggesting significant legal action. Instead, it was a simple consent decree entered into by both parties. ‘We are not stopping the pipeline, nor do we want to,” Seth Weber, a special prosecutor with the office, told Delaware Valley Journal at the time.
State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten (D-Exton) made opposition to the pipeline the centerpiece of her successful campaign for the Statehouse. Since being elected, she has enjoyed a high profile by working to halt the project.
“Pipeline opponents have been looking for political leaders to take up their cause and they found one,” one GOP source told Delaware Valley Journal. “A candidate running for governor.”
But is it a winning strategy?
In June, more supporters of the pipeline than opponents participated in a hearing held by Friel Otten about plans by Energy Transfer to change the Mariner East Pipeline’s path and to switch from horizontal drilling to an open-trench process in Upper Uwchlan.
Backers of the pipeline project, like Tom Melisko, business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66, are focused on the role it plays in the state’s overall energy economy.
“Pennsylvania’s energy industry has grown to support real jobs and significant investments — and Mariner East is a big part of that,” Melisko said. “Energy Transfer’s pipeline network continues to be a strong catalyst for our state’s energy infrastructure buildout.”
Meanwhile, opponents like state Sen. Katie Muth (D-Chester/Montgomery/Berks) zero in on problems like those at Marsh Creek State Park about a year ago, coincidentally where Shapiro had planned to expound on environmental crime charges Monday.
At the time of the leak into a lake in 2020, Energy Transfer spokesperson Lisa Coleman said, “We recognize the importance of this waterbody and are committed to allocating all necessary resources to fully remediate and restore the area; which includes removing the non-toxic bentonite clay and water mix — sometimes referred to as ‘drilling mud.’”
The 350-mile, $2.5 billion pipeline is very near completion. It will bring liquids from the Marcellus/Utica shale in western Pennsylvania to customers in the state and elsewhere, including international exports from Energy Transfer’s Marcus Hook complex near Philadelphia.