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PA Utility Regulator Says Sunoco Must Do More To Share Safety Information On Pipeline Project

Jon Hurdle
StateImpact Pennsylvania
Construction of Mariner East 2 in West Cornwall Township, Lebanon County.

Pennsylvania’s utility regulator is siding with a Cumberland County man in his complaint against Sunoco’s Mariner East pipeline.

Wilmer Baker said he was “ecstatic” to hear the Public Utility Commission is faulting Sunoco for failing to keep the public informed of safety protocols.

The order requires Sunoco to work with Lower Frankford Township and Cumberland County commissioners to schedule a public awareness meeting and then to attend that meeting. It also fines the company $1,000.

“I believe it’s a good step.” Baker said, “because a lot of people in this area just don’t know or care. But they will start to care when they realize they live in the blast zone.”

Baker, who lives near a pipeline construction site, said he is concerned about the volatile natural gas liquids the pipelines carry across the state.

The PUC’s order issued Wednesday upholds a decision from administrative law judge Elizabeth Barnes. She also called for Sunoco to provide more disaster response training for emergency officials and to review its own emergency protocols. Barnes dismissed parts of Baker’s complaint, including requests for Sunoco to install a warning alarm for people who live near the project and that the pipe be remade with American steel.

This order is the resolution of a complaint Baker filed over two years ago.

He said he’s already filed another complaint after incidents earlier this year.

“They don’t have a perfect record. And all you need is one accident,” Baker said.

The Department of Environmental Protection has issued seven violation notices to Sunoco for spills in Cumberland County since February.

A spokeswoman for Cumberland County said the commissioners applaud the PUC’s order. She said they support the project, but “it is critical that such undertakings be done without harm to the environment and also that Sunoco recognizes the importance of abiding by its own public awareness program and provide the time and education necessary to address the questions and concerns of our citizens.”

Sunoco’s parent company Energy Transfer said it disagrees that it didn’t do enough public outreach. It said it is evaluating its options.