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GOP Legislator Criticizing Company Behind Mariner East Pipelines As It Faces Criminal Investigation

Marie Cusick
StateImpact Pennsylvania
Mariner East 2 pipeline construction in Lebanon County Aug. 24, 2018.

Few legislators are more supportive of Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry than state Sen. Gene Yaw (Bradford), who serves as the Republican chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

However, when he addressed oil and gas industry representatives Wednesday at the Upstream PA Conference in State College, Yaw called out Energy Transfer for being irresponsible. It’s the company behind the embattled Mariner East project– a set of export pipelines moving natural gas liquids through the southern part of the state.

“This particular company, in my opinion, rode roughshod over people,” Yaw said in his remarks. “They haven’t explained what’s gone on. They haven’t addressed issues.”

The Mariner East project has resulted in dozens of violations for spills of drilling mud, which has contaminated private well water. Last year, state utility regulators temporarily shut down one of the pipelines, after sinkholes opened up in a Chester County neighborhood. Energy Transfer is now under criminal investigation by the attorneys general of Chester and Delaware counties, as well as State Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Yaw said Energy Transfer is damaging the reputations of more responsible pipeline operators, citing Williams, which recently completed the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, an expansion of its natural gas transmission line system.

“You have one company in Pennsylvania that is probably being counterproductive to your interests,” Yaw said, referring to Energy Transfer. “I’ve talked to these people until I was blue in the face. I know Williams isn’t happy, because they get tarred with the same brush.”

Yaw said he’s urged Energy Transfer to do a better job communicating with the public. He said he’s spoken with the firm as recently as a month ago.

Energy Transfer did not respond to a request seeking comment Thursday, but it has previously said there is no basis for a criminal investigation. In a February conference call with investors chief executive, Kelcy Warren, acknowledged the company has “made mistakes” with its Mariner East project adding, “we are correcting those mistakes and will not make those mistakes again.”

This story was published in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration between WESA, Allegheny Front, WITF and WHYY, to cover the commonwealth’s energy economy. Read more stories at StateImpact Pennsylvania's website.