Mariner East: Separating Truth from Myth
July 3, 2017
For Immediate Release
Middletown Coalition for Community Safety
Media contact: firstname.lastname@example.org – (484) 441-3308
Sunoco’s “Mariner East” Flyer Increases Community Concerns: Public Safety Risks, Impaired Property Values, Private Property Rights at Forefront of Debate
MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania, July 3, 2017—Just before this holiday weekend, Sunoco distributed a flyer in Chester and Delaware county purporting to help residents separate “fact” from “fiction.” The Middletown Coalition for Community Safety (MCCS) believes the flyer may have been prepared by Sunoco’s public relations firm The Bravo Group, whose stated “goal” is to help Sunoco “neutralize opposition.” MCCS believes it is important to correct the misinformation distributed by Sunoco in this flyer.
Sunoco Myth #1: “The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and other government agencies strictly regulate the manufacturing, construction and operation of Sunoco Pipeline projects.”
Neither the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration nor the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has authority over the siting (or routing) of Sunoco’s proposed hazardous highly volatile liquids export pipeline. Sunoco has chosen a route to maximize its convenience and profit in disregard for public safety. The National Transportation Board (NTSB) issued a report in 2015 after a series of pipeline accidents that “resulted in 8 fatalities, over 50 injuries, and 41 homes destroyed with many more damaged.” NTSB found “The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)’s resources on integrity management inspections for state inspectors, including existing inspection protocol guidance, mentorship opportunities, and the availability of PHMSA’s inspection subject matter experts for consultation, are inadequate.” Even after recent staff increases, for each PHMSA inspector there is a length of pipeline that would stretch from Seattle to Miami. The federal regulator therefore relies almost entirely on self-supervision and self-reporting by the industry. The result of this hands-off regulatory scheme: 11,400 pipeline leaks in last 20 years, which collectively caused 324 fatalities, an additional 1,333 injuries, and over $7 billion in direct property damage.
The truth: no agency approved the routing of Sunoco’s hazardous, highly volatile liquids transmission pipelines just steps from homes, elementary schools, senior living facilities and businesses in densely populated areas. PHMSA’s regulatory abilities are inadequate, as demonstrated by the accelerating rate of large hazardous liquids pipeline accidents per mile of pipeline.
Sunoco Myth #2: “Skilled local tradesmen, such as Philadelphia-based Steamfitters Local 420, are equipped with the most advanced training, safety measures and operation standards to ensure safe and environmentally responsible construction.”
The Middletown Coalition for Community Safety counts among its ranks many current and former union members. This 4th of July weekend, when we celebrate our “unalienable” rights to life, liberty, enjoyment of private property and freedom from oppression, we are pleased that our brothers and sisters are fully employed.
Visit any Sunoco job site in Pennsylvania and you will see mostly out-of-state vehicles, often parked to conceal their license plates. Sunoco has declined repeatedly, in writing, to answer any questions about its supposed jobs figures.
In April 2016 Sunoco was issued a federal Notice of Probable Violation, Proposed Civil Penalty, and Proposed Compliance Order pertaining to its pipeline construction practices. The Notice alleges that Sunoco used unqualified welders and unqualified welding procedures to perform approximately 3,000 welds on a new hazardous liquids pipeline. “When this errant practice was discovered, Sunoco attempted to back-qualify welders…several of the welders, who were retested, failed to qualify [even] with multiple retesting attempts. These same failed welders had each participated in the welding of numerous production welds prior to attempting requalification….Sunoco’s attempt to “back-qualify” welders…demonstrates that the Operator recognized the deficiency but did not take appropriate measures to achieve compliance.” Sunoco put this pipeline into service despite the suspect welds. It failed in September 2016, spilling 361,000 gallons of hazardous liquids (as reported by Sunoco).
In 2016 Sunoco reported leaking more hazardous liquids from its pipelines than in the previous six years (2010-2015) combined.
The truth: Mariner East creates only a handful of permanent jobs for Pennsylvanians. At the same time, it imposes enormous, undisputed and permanent safety risks upon the vulnerable, dense, hardworking residents of Pennsylvania. Schoolchildren and seniors are among those most at risk, and neither Sunoco nor any government agency has provided a credible plan to provide for their safety.
Sunoco Myth #3: “Sunoco Pipeline is using advanced construction methods, such as horizontal directional drilling, to minimize environmental impacts.”
The facts: Sunoco’s proposed horizontal directional drilling (HDD) itself creates risks to public and private water supplies.
Sunoco’s own permit applications to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection addressed these risks. The “RISKS TO WATER SUPPLIES” documents were taken down from the DEP web site shortly after they were posted, but MCCS has made them available at www.middletowncoalition.org
In August 2016, the Pennsylvania American Water Company (PAWC) wrote to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: “…the proposed route of the Sunoco Pipeline has the potential to endanger PAWC’s public water supplies that are vital to the provision of public water service to over 12,000 Pennsylvanians…”
In May 2017, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency issued to Energy Transfer Partners (the parent company of Sunoco Logistics) an administrative order in lieu of enforcement, alleging six separate releases of HDD drilling fluid. The largest of these leaks in Ohio resulted in the release of approximately 2 million gallons of drilling fluid, coating 6.5 acres of wetlands. This drilling fluid was discovered to contain “petroleum hydrocarbon constituents, commonly found in diesel fuel.” Subsequently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission took the unusual step of ordering Energy Transfer to halt HDD operations, noting that “this matter may also be referred to the Commission’s Office of Enforcement for further investigation.”
Upon starting HDD operations in southeast Pennsylvania, Sunoco leaked drilling fluid into Chester Creek in Brookhaven. This material is “an industrial waste” according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, whose release into wetlands and waterways of our Commonwealth is prohibited by law. MCCS has posted documents and imagery of this event. On May 9, 2017 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued Sunoco a Notice of Violation in this matter. This leak in Brookhaven is just the latest in a string of violation notices issued to Sunoco for leaks of drilling fluid in Pennsylvania.
The truth: Sunoco’s proposed construction methods pose serious risks to wetlands, waterways, and public and private water supplies across Pennsylvania.
Sunoco Myth #4: “Mariner East 2 will use over 75,000 tons of domestic steel coated with a specialty epoxy to prevent corrosion and other damage. Sunoco Pipeline does not use PVC, copper or aluminum.”
The facts: Pictures taken at Sunoco construction sites show the presence of many pipeline sections stamped “Made in Greece.”
And no pipeline operator (not even Sunoco) would propose to construct a high pressure, highly volatile liquids pipeline out of a material like copper or PVC.
The truth: federal safety regulations on “Transportation of Hazardous Liquids by Pipeline” require new pipelines to be made of steel. The various countries from which Sunoco procures this steel are immaterial in light of the public safety risks of this proposed export pipeline, especially given Sunoco’s worst-in-the-industry record of reported pipeline leaks.
Sunoco Myth #5: “In 2015 and 2017 a Chester County township commissioned an independent study conducted by a nationally respected expert who found Sunoco Pipeline meets or exceeds federal safety requirements at every level.”
The facts: Sunoco has repeatedly cited these reports in misleading ways. Let’s take a closer look.
In other reports performed by this expert, Richard Kuprewicz, he used publicly available information. For the reports referred to by Sunoco, Kuprewicz signed a nondisclosure agreement that ensured he would be unable to publicly discuss information received from Sunoco. In addition, under the terms of his agreement, Kuprewicz was required to allow Sunoco to comment on both reports before they were provided to the client, West Goshen Township. The actual “independence” of these reports is questionable.
The applicability of these reports (not “studies”) was limited “to the segments of the Mariner East project that could affect the township.” (Only one mile of pipeline).
Kuprewicz notes in his 2015 report that the “fluids [proposed to be transported] are pressurized to remain liquid at operating conditions within the pipeline, but upon release would generate heavier than air hydrocarbon vapor clouds that can impact large areas.” Indeed, past accidents involving these materials have resulted in damage and fatalities over areas measured in square miles.
Kuprewicz reports that “Federal safety regulations provide limited levels of safety assurance.” Sunoco’s reports of 290 hazardous liquids leaks just since 2006 do not provide much safety assurance either, especially given that many of them have occurred right here in Pennsylvania.
Kuprewicz discusses inline tools and hydrostatic testing. Despite performing such testing, Sunoco has reported three leaks on Mariner East one in the space of less than one year.
Kuprewicz discusses Sunoco’s leak detection system in vague terms. What we know about this technology is that it failed to detect either the most recent leak on Mariner East 1, which was reported by a Morgantown landowner on April 1, 2017, or a leak in Edgmont Township which was discovered by a landowner in April 2015.
Kuprewicz notes that the efforts Sunoco is making cannot guarantee against a release. Elsewhere, Kuprewicz wrote “Assuming that rupture failure will never occur is most unwise, if not reckless...Emergency Response Planning [ERP] should never be utilized to credit against the risks associated with pipeline rupture events. No matter how effective the ERP, response cannot be fast enough to save those most at risk in the extreme heat flux zones associated with the most likely early ignition gas release scenarios.” Commentary on the Risk Analysis for the Proposed Emera Brunswick Pipeline through Saint John, NB by Richard B. Kuprewicz, President, Accufacts Inc. (Emphasis added). Because it is unwise or reckless to disregard the possibility of a rupture, a report intended to inform policymakers of the degree of risk should contain some analysis of potential consequences and their probability. Kuprewicz’s reports are devoid of this kind of information.
In the end, both Kuprewicz reports are full of generalities and empty of specifics. They leave unanswered every important question, such as:
A one-mile segment of 20” pipeline filled with ethane contains 147 tons of material; for propane, the corresponding figure is more than 190 tons. The explosive energy in a six mile segment full of liquefied ethane is equivalent to 10,000 tons of TNT. What are the consequences of a rupture in a densely populated area?
Given Sunoco’s worst-in-the-industry record of reported pipeline leaks (out of 2,000 operators), what is the probability of one occurring on a given segment?
Kuprewicz believes that emergency response planning doesn’t mitigate risk for those within the “extreme heat flux zone.” So what credible measures can the public take to protect itself in the event of a leak?
The truth: The Kuprewicz reports commissioned by West Goshen Township contain no information regarding the public safety risks of Sunoco’s proposed hazardous, highly volatile liquid pipelines. Sunoco’s long record of federal enforcement action shows that it frequently does not comply with all federal safety rules. 2016 was a record year enforcement action against Sunoco; the company was issued a greater amount of civil fines from the federal regulator in 2016 than in the previous ten years (2006-2015) combined.
Sunoco Myth #6: “Sunoco Pipeline’s Integrity Management Program uses smart inspection technology and on-site inspections to assess every inch of pipeline it operates to ensure safe and efficient operation.”
The facts: On April 1, 2017 a Morgantown landowner discovered combustible gas hissing out of the ground in his front yard. Just 29 inches below the surface, “Mariner East 1” had structurally failed due to corrosion. The segment of failed pipeline had been inspected by two inline tool runs plus a hydrostatic test in the four years prior to the leak. All of these tests failed to detect the defect which caused the leak. In addition, Sunoco’s leak detection system failed to detect that the leak was occurring. We are still waiting for Sunoco to provide information on how long the pipeline was leaking for before the landowner reported it; how much combustible vapor was released; and how long it took Sunoco to stop the venting of material. It’s also possible that the leak rate was accelerating with time. The truth: A Sunoco maintenance supervisor testified under oath at a hearing in West Cornwall Township on June 13, 2017. When asked whether he could guarantee there would not be a leak on a Sunoco pipeline, he responded “I can’t guarantee that.” The supervisor then described the recent tests on the failed Morgantown segment. When asked why none of these tests detected the defect that caused the leak, the Sunoco supervisor responded:
“The test is good the day that you do it. The next day, based on operations, anything could change.” “Smart inspection technology” that is incapable of ensuring safe operation beyond the day it is used doesn’t seem that smart to us. MCCS will make the videotape of this testimony available on its web site.