Middletown to Pa.: Stop pipeline construction
By Bill Rettew, firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED: 06/11/18, 10:00 PM EDT | UPDATED: 1 HR AGO 0 COMMENTS
MIDDLETOWN >> Council, and several of 11 speakers during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, addressed water company Aqua’s May 21 strike of the under-construction Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline with a backhoe.
Council President Mark Kirchgasser didn’t mince words while reading a board sponsored statement which supported the need for an ongoing investigation by the Public Utility Commission.
“It is evident to council from the events of recent weeks that ETP (Sunoco or Energy Transfer Partners) appears to be more interested in the expedient installation of ME2 than in protecting Middletown’s residents and maintaining their trust,” read Kirchgasser. “The citizens of Middletown Township have a right to expect excellence in all aspects of the installation and maintenance of the ME2 pipelines.
“This includes insuring that the lines, once installed, are protected from damage of any type.”
The Mariner East 2 is a 350-mile pipeline that would carry gas liquids across the state of Pennsylvania, terminating at the former Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook.
Aqua officials maintain that contractor Brubacher was given incorrect information by Sunoco concerning the depth of the pipeline.
The township instructed Manager Andrew Haines to draft a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf and the PUC requesting an immediate halt to pipeline construction on Mariner East 3 in the township.
“We ask that the PUC, holding jurisdiction in this instance, rigorously investigate this accident and if satisfied, subsequently hold ETP to the highest regulatory standards available,” Kirchgasser read from the statement. “This accident is wholly unacceptable and could have been prevented had ETP, Aqua, and their respective agents communicated and performed properly with commonly accepted best practices.
“We ask for the state’s intervention to ensure these criteria are met.”
Resident George Siter lauded council for seeking accountability and “standing up and protecting this township.”
A couple of public speakers said the action by the board was overdue but were still pleased.
“The installation is just the first step and it doesn’t necessarily protect our safety,” said a resident. “I think the best action is to shut this project down completely.”
Bibianna Duessling said she was “disgusted” by how the township found out about the strike. Council first heard about it 17 days after it happened on Facebook.
“I imagine the effort it took to conceal that information for 17 days,” Kirchgasser said. Solicitor Joe Damico Jr. told Duessling that it was premature to file a formal complaint with the PUC since, to date, Sunoco ETP has been in compliance.
“There has not been a violation,” Damico said he was told. “They’ve been responsive.”
Several residents also complained about water, drilling fluid and flooding near the Tunbridge Apartments.
Resident JoAnn Williams said she feels like she’s living at a truck stop.
“It’s a noisy industrial area with pipes standing up and trucks everywhere,” she said. “No sane person would allow this to happen.
“I would definitely pay higher taxes than compromise the safety of our citizens.”
Resident James Kishwick told council that the information it is receiving has to be taken with a grain of salt and is not timely.
George Alexander, speaking for Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety, provided this statement after the meeting: “We are glad that the Middletown Township Council has recognized the seriousness of the threat posed by the Mariner East pipelines and is asking the PUC to call a halt until a thorough safety review can be done. The pipeline strike by an Aqua contractor, and the failure of both Aqua and Sunoco to notify the township, has revealed the kinds of failure in both the construction and regulatory processes that could easily lead to a catastrophe in the future.”
Randall Sampson said he’s entered into an agreement of sale for his home with the value of the property at $40,000 less than it was formerly worth.
“All it is going to take is one accident when it’s energized and we’ll have no community,” Sampson said.