Energy Transfer says it is complying with Gov. Tom Wolf’s order to shut down construction of the Mariner East pipeline project while also applying for waivers to continue some work in the interests of safety.
In a statement submitted as part of ongoing litigation concerning the safe operation of the Mariner East 1 pipeline, which is currently before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Sunoco attorney Thomas Sniscak told administrative law judge Elizabeth Barnes of the request for a waiver on Monday.
“Consistent with the Governor’s order, Sunoco has made requests for waivers in selected circumstances where Sunoco believes that suspension of construction will create increased risks to safety and/or the environment,” Sniscak wrote. “As of this email, none of the waiver requests have been acted upon.”
A spokesperson for Energy Transfer said the company did receive permission from Wolf’s office to resume some work.
“This means we can stabilize and secure our construction sites,” said Energy Transfer spokeswoman Lisa Coleman in an email. “It also means we can perform inspection and maintenance activities to ensure compliance with our existing environmental permits.”
Neither the Department of Environmental Protection nor the Department of Community and Economic Development responded to questions about the waiver.
Pipeline construction remains years behind schedule due to environmental and safety violations. The DEP recently lifted a moratorium on construction that had been imposed after dangerous sinkholes developed in suburban Philadelphia.
The sinkholes resulted from horizontal directional drilling, or HDD, and the DEP forced the company to re-apply for permits to complete a number of sections of pipe. In the meantime, natural gas liquids have been flowing through a re-worked section of older pipe.
The governor’s Friday order to close all “non-life-sustaining” businesses in the state caused confusion over whether construction on the project could go forward. Late in the day, Energy Transfer confirmed that the shutdown order did include Mariner East pipeline construction.
Businesses seeking to continue operations can apply for a waiver through the Department of Community and Economic Development. As of Monday, DCED had received 15,092 waiver requests and approved 2,486.
This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.