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Energy Transfer ordered to pay for water testing, remediation
The companies behind the construction of a controversial natural gas pipeline that crosses through the Mon-Yough area have been convicted of criminal charges related to the project.
On Friday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that Sunoco Pipeline LP and ETC Northeast Pipeline LLC have pleaded no contest to charges related to contamination of lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater during the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.
The Mariner East 2 pipeline, which goes through 17 southern Pennsylvania counties, crosses Forward Twp. and passes near communities such as Sutersville, West Newton and Finleyville. It parallels an older gasoline pipeline built in the 1930s.
Homeowners who live in the pipeline’s path and want to have their water tested have until Aug. 19 to file a request.
Shapiro and state regulators have alleged that the companies — both subsidiaries of a larger Texas-based company known as Energy Transfer LP — failed to report environmental damage and criminal use of unapproved additives in drilling fluid.
Prosecutors allege that more than 150 families have had their drinking water contaminated by construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which carries liquified natural gas from Ohio and West Virginia to processing facilities elsewhere in Pennsylvania.
“We have a constitutional right in Pennsylvania to clean air and pure water,” Shapiro said in a prepared statement. “It’s a right that was enshrined in our state constitution at a time when the people of Pennsylvania learned a tough lesson first-hand — the health of our children, and our economic future, depended on protecting our environment from reckless profit and unchecked corporate interests.
“Today we’re upholding our oath to our constitution and holding Energy Transfer accountable for their crimes against our natural resources,” he said.
Sunoco Pipeline LP pleaded no contest to 14 counts of clean streams violations for incidents related to the construction of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline, Shapiro said.
The plea agreement also covers allegations leveled against ETC Northeast in connection with the construction of the Revolution Pipeline, a 42.5-mile pipeline that starts in Butler County and connects to a gas processing plant in Washington County, passing through Beaver and Allegheny counties.
As part of the agreement, Shapiro’s office said, Energy Transfer will pay for independent evaluations of potential water quality impacts for homeowners from the construction of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline and offer approved mechanisms for restoring or replacing the impacted private water supplies.
An independent, professional geologist will review water testing and advise homeowners on water quality and impact, Shapiro’s office said.
Energy Transfer also will pay $10 million towards projects that improve the health and safety of water sources along the routes of the pipelines.
In October 2021, 48 charges were filed against the two companies after a statewide grand jury investigation.
According to testimony before the grand jury, Sunoco Pipeline repeatedly allowed thousands of gallons of drilling fluid to escape underground, which sometimes surfaced in fields, backyards, streams, lakes and wetlands. The company then failed to report the losses of fluid to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection numerous times, despite legal requirements to do so, the state alleged.
Westmoreland County homeowner Alice Mioduski said the plea agreement and settlement have been “a long time coming.”
The Mioduski family, who lives in New Alexandria, said in a prepared statement they have been living with a water tanker on their property for five years after drilling for the pipeline contaminated their well.
The Mioduskis now carry buckets of water into their home, garden and to a barn to water their horses multiple times a day, Anna Mioduski said.
“As a retired couple, we never expected to be spending our time and energy carting around water because a company destroyed our supply,” she said. “Our hope is that this plea will finally get us the permanent solution to our water woes. If this plea could restore our clean water supply, it would be a step in the right direction — this is all we have ever wanted.”
Anyone who lives in the immediate right-of-way of the Mariner East Two Pipeline was already sent a letter from state Office of Attorney General and the Office of Victim Advocate, a spokesperson said.
Residents interested in having their water tested should reach out to the Attorney General’s office as soon as possible. The deadline to sign up for water testing is Aug. 19.
To contact the office, email email@example.com, call (570) 904-2643 or write to Environmental Crimes Section, 16th Floor, Strawberry Square, Harrisburg, PA 17120.
Originally published August 05, 2022.
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