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Construction wraps on problem-plagued Mariner East pipeline

Marie Cusick
StateImpact Pennsylvania

Work is finished on a multibillion-dollar pipeline system that connects the vast Marcellus Shale gas field in western Pennsylvania to an export terminal near Philadelphia, according to its corporate owner, which faces criminal charges that it fouled waterways and residential water supplies during pipeline construction.

Energy Transfer said Wednesday that construction work on its Mariner East pipeline network was completed this month. The announcement was included in the company's fourth-quarter earnings report. The Texas-based company said it was preparing to put the newest pipeline into service.

The Mariner East 1, Mariner East 2 and Mariner East 2X pipelines are designed to carry propane, ethane and butane from the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale gas fields to a refinery processing center and export terminal in Marcus Hook.

In October, Energy Transfer was charged criminally after a grand jury concluded that it broke Pennsylvania environmental laws and fouled waterways and residential water supplies across hundreds of miles as Mariner East was built. Prosecutors said Energy Transfer ruined the drinking water of at least 150 families statewide. A spill of thousands of gallons of drilling fluid contaminated wetlands, a stream and part of a 535-acre lake at Marsh Creek State Park outside Philadelphia.

The company has yet to enter a plea in the case.

Energy Transfer has been assessed more than $24 million in civil fines, including a $12.6 million fine in 2018 that was one of the largest ever imposed by the state. State regulators have periodically shut down pipeline construction.

Even so, the operational portion of the Mariner East network transported a growing volume of natural gas liquids last year, up nearly 10% over 2020, the company said. With work on the final phase of construction now complete, total capacity is projected at 350,000 to 375,000 barrels per day.

“With our expanded network, we will see volumes to continue to grow,” said Thomas Long, co-CEO of Energy Transfer, said during an earnings conference call.

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