Democratic state Reps. Dianne Herrin, Danielle Friel Otten and Sen. Katie Muth called on Gov. Tom Wolf and the Department of Environmental Protection to pull the permits for the Mariner East 2 pipeline and shut the entire $2.5 billion, 350-mile project.
The progressive lawmakers held a press conference with three residents who claimed to have water issues related to the pipeline. It comes just weeks after a presentment by a Pennsylvania grand jury against Energy Transfer announced by Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The Democrat has since announced his candidacy for governor.
Herrin (D-West Chester) noted that Shapiro said under state law, the “only consequences” for Energy Transfer would be fines, even though the grand jury charged the company with 48 counts of criminal wrongdoing.
“This is simply not enough,” she said. “Corporations must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. The attorney general’s charges are really the first step.”
She also called on her fellow legislators to enact stronger laws.
“Do your job,” Muth (D-Berks/Chester/Montgomery) said. “Fulfil these permit conditions. Restore these families’ water supplies now. This is not impossible. This is not really all that difficult. Building out access to public water is an economic activity, is a means to save these people’s lives. They are not just simple disposable human beings that are the cost of doing business in Pennsylvania.”
Calls to shut down a major energy pipeline come at a problematic time as the nation faces rising energy prices and warnings of a natural gas shortage this winter.
The Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance (PEIA) responded to the call to shut down the pipeline.
“The Mariner East pipeline is one of the most heavily regulated and intensely scrutinized infrastructure projects that this commonwealth has ever seen,” said Kurt Knaus, spokesman for PEIA. “It is also among the largest, stretching more than 300 miles across Pennsylvania. Calls to stop the project or delay construction only prolong disruptions in communities where work is underway but nearly finished. This is a legally permitted project that went through countless public hearings and received tens of thousands of public comments.
“The focus now should be on finishing the job so we can finally realize the full economic benefits of this pipeline,” Knaus said.
Muth claimed some people have not had drinking water in 11 years. “This is 2021 in America, and these people do not have clean drinking water. That is shameful and unacceptable.”
Johnstown resident Ron Shawley, Patrick Robinson of New Florence and West Chester resident Fred Custer talked about having water problems once the pipeline construction began near their homes and the difficulties they’ve had trying to get the company or the DEP to remedy their situations.
The men brought along bottles of brown liquid that they have said is the water from their taps. Some 150 other property owners claim their wells have been affected by the pipeline, too, the legislators said.
Custer, who is retired from Sun Oil (the original pipeline company), said his father and grandfather had also worked for Sun. He worked in a tanker, in public relations and spent over 20 years testing lubricants in their research and development department.
A Boot Road resident, Custer said his water worsened as the drilling continued and the screens in his shower heads became clogged and the laundry stained. He also questioned the pipeline installers’ testing methods. He suspected drilling mud caused his water issues but was told by state officials the pipeline was not responsible.
“In this life and in this world, there are very few or no coincidences,” he said. “Everything is caused by cause and effect.”
“The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has determined that there has been no impact to Mr. Custer’s or Mr. Robinson’s water supply related to our construction,” said Lisa Coleman, a spokeswoman for Energy Transfer. “Our investigations have come to the same conclusion. Mr. Shawley has established legal representation so I cannot comment at this time.”
“During the construction of our pipelines, we treat any potential impact to landowners’ private water supplies with the utmost concern. In the event a concern is expressed by a landowner, Energy Transfer has established protocols to investigate, test, and – if necessary – provide temporary alternative water supply as a matter of good faith to our neighbors as we did for Mr. Robinson,” she said.