By: Andrea Sears, Public News Service

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection could soon resume issuing permits for construction of the Mariner East Pipeline.

The DEP announced Friday it has reached an agreement with the company overseeing the construction after banning new permits and approvals last year because of numerous violations associated with its Revolution Pipeline project.

But Kathryn Urbanowicz, staff attorney with the Clean Air Council, said she’s not convinced the agreement will improve the safety of the Mariner East pipeline or the environmental impacts of its construction.

“They’ve just had problem after problem,” Urbanowicz said. “So anything that helps these pipelines go forward is going to be putting Pennsylvanians at risk, because Sunoco can’t be trusted.”

The agreement lifting the ban on permits includes penalties totaling more than $30 million for an explosion and fire along the Revolution Pipeline that destroyed a house.

Urbanowicz pointed out that Energy Transfer, which owns Sunoco Pipeline, also has incurred more than 100 violations and $13 million in fines associated with the Mariner East Pipeline.

“They’ve had hundreds of spills of drilling fluid, opened up sinkholes in people’s backyards. And a lot of this has to do with just rushing the process and not understanding the geology that they’re disrupting,” she said.

The agreement addresses violations through December, including more than 1,000 failures to install or implement pollution controls.

Urbanowicz noted the agreement does not mean pipeline construction will proceed automatically.

“We still have the safety net of the permits and approvals,” she explained. “We just hope that everything is scrutinized very carefully by the DEP to protect the public.”

She added that lifting the ban on new permits makes government oversight more important than ever.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...