DEP fines Sunoco $12.6 million, lifts pipeline suspension

Video report by WFMZ's Tom Rader

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued a $12.6-million penalty to Sunoco Pipeline for permit violations related to the company's construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline project.

The DEP said the penalty is one of the largest civil penalties collected in a single settlement.

As a result of an agreement reached with Sunoco, the DEP said Thursday that it has also lifted its month-long suspension of construction permits associated with the project, allowing the work to move forward.

"Throughout the life of this project, DEP has consistently held this operator to the highest standard possible. A permit suspension is one of the most significant penalties DEP can levy," said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. "Our action to suspend the permits associated with this project, and the collection of this penalty, are indicative of the strict oversight that DEP has consistently exercised over this project."

The DEP issued an order to Sunoco to suspend its construction activities on January 3, detailing facts and findings related to the violations, officials said.

Sunoco Pipeline said it agreed to a fine to avoid litigation and resume construction of the pipeline, adding that it strongly disagrees that its conduct has been willful or egregious.

Berks Gas Truth, an organization that has opposed construction of the 306-mile pipeline, welcomed that move.

The DEP said Sunoco has since put forth a plan to implement additional measures and controls to ensure that all permit conditions will be followed at all times moving forward.

"DEP will continue to monitor and enforce the conditions of the permits, and will take necessary enforcement actions for any future violations," said McDonnell. "If a resident should witness pollution from the pipeline affecting streams or other waterways, then please alert DEP at 1-800-541-2050."

The $12.6-million penalty will go to the Clean Water Fund and the Dams and Encroachments Fund.

The company's $2.5-billion pipeline will move propane and other natural gas liquids from southwestern Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale natural gas fields across 17 counties, including Berks, Lancaster Lebanon, and Chester, to its Marcus Hook processing and distribution facility in Delaware County, near Philadelphia.

Sunoco Pipeline, which has regional headquarters in Spring Township, said the pipeline will provide four times the capacity of its existing Mariner East 1 pipeline. Mariner East 2 is largely following the same path.

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