PUC Directs Sunoco Pipeline to take Safety Actions Over Complaints Involving Mariner East Pipelines

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission directed Sunoco Pipeline L.P. to take certain reasonable actions to protect public safety regarding the construction and operation of the Mariner East Pipelines – including Mariner East 1, Mariner East 2 and Mariner East 2X – addressing complaints that had been filed against the pipeline operator.

The Commission approved an initial decision issued by PUC Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth H. Barnes, in a case involving complaints against Sunoco Pipeline L.P. which were filed by nearly a dozen individuals and organizations from southeastern Pennsylvania.  Today’s more than 100-page Commission Order addresses the consolidated cases, which were the subject of extensive testimony, hearings and related litigation.

The order requires Sunoco Pipeline to take a series of actions intended to enhance public safety in the construction and operation of the Mariner East pipelines, including:

  • A comprehensive review of Sunoco’s public awareness program.
  • A written plan to enhance Sunoco’s public awareness and emergency notification plans.
  • Enhancements to public awareness safety materials for residents and emergency responders in Delaware and Chester Counties.
  • Supplements to Sunoco’s emergency contact list for Delaware and Chester Counties, including police departments of municipalities and designees of school districts.
  • Advance notification by Sunoco prior to proposed excavation on the pipeline system in all municipalities of Delaware and Chester Counties.
  • Scheduling by Sunoco of public awareness/education meetings to be held in the West Chester Area School District, Twin Valley School District, Downingtown Area School District, and Rose Tree Media School District.
  • Arrangements by Sunoco for meetings with the Chester County Commissioners, Delaware County Commissioners, and all municipalities’ supervisors therein, to establish emergency contact list information; assist with the establishment of emergency plans for first responders; inform and educate officials and staff on proper and effective disaster prevention and disaster response; assist in the development of an evacuation plan for use by municipalities; create a public outreach and public education program; and address other related issues included in the PUC’s Final Order.
  • Establishment of times and dates for follow-up meetings and periodic meeting schedules as mutually agreeable between municipalities, counties and Sunoco Pipeline.
  • Additional training by Sunoco regarding emergency notification procedures, as reasonably requested by municipalities and school districts.
  • A “depth of cover” and “distance between other underground pipelines/structures” survey regarding Mariner East 1 and the 12-inch workaround pipelines as long as they are purposed for carrying highly volatile liquids.
  • Sunoco shall file a report with the Commission certifying whether Mariner East 1 and the 12-inch workaround pipelines that are transporting highly volatile liquids within Chester and Delaware Counties are buried so that they are below the level of cultivation and so the cover between top of pipe and ground level, road bed, river bottom or underwater natural bottom is in compliance with minimum regulatory requirements and the distance between pipeline exteriors and the exteriors of other underground pipelines/utility structures are at least twelve inches apart unless adequate corrosive control action can be shown – along with a corrective action plan for area areas requiring remediation – to be filed annually for three years.
  • Sharing the results of any geophysical test reports, inspection and evaluation reports assessing the condition of its pipelines located in East Goshen Township or Middletown Township to Township Supervisors or their designee engineering consultants at least on an annual basis and more frequently while construction is ongoing, pursuant to any non-disclosure agreements Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. deems necessary to protect its confidential security information.
  • Subject to a nondisclosure agreement, share with Chester County’s Department of Emergency Services maps of all transmission lines listing material moved, pipeline diameter, mainline valve locations and maximum operating pressures (MOP), and maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) and information about the location of any anomalies that merit pressure reduction in the pipeline and the presence of “immediate,” “60-day” or “180-day” repair conditions for liquid pipelines or “immediate” or “one- year” repair conditions for gas pipelines.
  • A $2,000 civil penalty, payable to “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” to be paid within 30 days of the date of entry for the Final Order in this case.

Several other issues raised in the complaints were referred to the PUC’s ongoing rulemaking related to the pipeline transport of petroleum products and hazardous liquids in intrastate commerce, which is exploring proposed amendments to existing state pipeline safety regulations along with the possible addition of new regulations.