Pipeline developer not contesting pollution cases

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — The developer of a major pipeline system that connects the Marcellus Shale gas field in western Pennsylvania to an export terminal near Philadelphia on Friday did not contest criminal charges that it allegedly Systematically polluted waterways and residential water wells for hundreds of miles.

Dallas-based Energy Transfer Operating agreed to independent testing of water from homeowners and promised to remedy the contamination as part of a settlement of two separate criminal cases brought by the Pennsylvania attorney general. As part of a plea deal, the company will also pay $10 million to restore watersheds and waterways along the route of its Mariner East pipeline system.

A judge heard and approved the plea during a hearing in Harrisburg on Friday.

“We hold Energy Transfer accountable for its crimes against our natural resources,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a press conference after the hearing.

The Company’s Mariner East 1, Mariner East 2 and Mariner East 2X pipelines are designed to transport propane, ethane and butane from the Marcellus and Utica Shale gas fields to a refinery processing center and an oil terminal. export to Marcus Hook, a suburb of Philadelphia. Wrapped construction in February.

Mariner East was one of the most penalized projects in state history. The owner has racked up tens of millions of dollars in civil penalties and state regulators have repeatedly halted construction due to environmental contamination.

The Attorney General intervened last October, charging energy transfer with the illegal dumping of industrial waste at 22 sites in 11 counties and the willful failure to report spills to state environmental regulators. The company polluted the drinking water of at least 150 families statewide, prosecutors said.

Under the plea agreement, residents who live near the pipeline and have private water have the right to request independent testing. More than 800 residents along the pipeline route have been notified of the availability of testing, and residents have until August 19 to Register.

Although Energy Transfer’s state permits already require it to repair damage its pipeline construction caused to waterways and residents’ water supplies, prosecutors said the plea deal will further by requiring the company to submit to independent water testing by geologists chosen by the Attorney General. Desk. Previously, Energy Transfer itself tested residents’ water in response to complaints.

The company must comply with the recommendations of independent experts on how to restore contaminated water, which could include treatment systems or new water wells.

Another part of the plea deal requires Energy Transfer to pay $10 million to address groundwater and waterway contamination.

Money is a drop in the ocean for a pipeline company with soaring profits. Energy Transfer reported this week that its second-quarter net profit jumped 90% to $1.33 billion as the company’s pipelines transported record volumes of natural gas liquids.

Shapiro, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has long complained that Pennsylvania’s criminal environmental laws are too weak. His office said the legal maximum for the crimes Energy Transfer has been charged with is just $1.45 million, making a plea deal more beneficial to victims than filing the case. in justice.

“This conviction locks in a historic deal when the Commonwealth had maximum leverage,” Shapiro said on Friday. “Even if we had won all the counts at trial, Energy Transfer would have gotten away with pocket change for their crimes. … Nothing more would have come to make our water cleaner and safer, and the inhabitants would have been screwed.

An email was sent to Energy Transfer seeking comment on the plea deal.

The Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, a trade group, said most of what it called Mariner East’s “construction woes” had already been addressed by state environmental regulators.

“I hope this puts an end to the problem, because it’s time to put the past to rest,” the group said, adding that Mariner East is operating safely.

Residents who live near the pipeline and some state lawmakers have said Mariner East should be shut down entirely in light of the criminal charges, but incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has long ignored those calls to unplug.

Friday’s plea agreement also resolves a separate criminal case involving the Revolution Pipeline, a 42-mile pipeline near Pittsburgh that connects Butler County to a natural gas processing plant in Washington County. In this case, prosecutors alleged negligence by Energy Transfer led to a gas explosion and fire in 2018 that destroyed a house, barn and several cars, collapsed six high-voltage transmission towers and prompted an evacuation.

Energy Transfer did not contest 14 counts in the Mariner East case and nine counts in the Revolution case.

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