Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dragonpipe (Mariner East 2) reported its second-quarter financial results yesterday (August 8) after the close of business. (I understand they were OK, but below industry averages and below analysts’ expectations.) On today’s conference call with analysts, Tom Long (ETP’s Chief Financial Officer) talked briefly about ETP’s problems with the Dragonpipe, the Rover pipeline in Ohio and Michigan, and the Revolution pipeline/processing complex in western Pennsylvania.

Of the Dragonpipe, he said, “…we do expect to have it in service sometime in the fourth quarter.” He added, “… we continue to make significant progress on the construction of this project. On the pipeline, approximately 80% of the pipe has been strung, more than 70% is welded and over half has been lowered in and backfilled. We have made significant progress in resolving issues with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board to allow us to resume drilling various HDDs in Pennsylvania….We are working for approval to complete the remaining drills.”

The fourth quarter? Really? It is certainly possible that the pipeline could be constructed in what remains of 2017. But if that were to happen, all of ETP’s stars would have to align perfectly. The following things would be required, at a minimum:

  • All the geological reports called for in yesterday’s proposed settlement (assuming the judge approves it) would have to be completed, reviewed, and approved, and all the pre-drilling notifications would have to be made.
  • There would have to be no recommendations from the geologists’ reports that resulted in “major permit modifications”. These would require restarting a permit application process that would last many months (perhaps more than a year).
  • West Goshen Township would have to acquiesce to Sunoco/ETP’s illegal demand that they be permitted to build a valve complex on a location where they cannot build, according to their 2015 agreement. If they are compelled to build where that agreement permits them to build, they will have to go through permitting processes with the DEP as well as with PennDOT (because of the impact on the adjacent part of Rte. 202).
  • There would have to be no major new frac-out and water-quality issues resulting in another construction stoppage.
  • Sunoco/ETP would have to win all the eminent domain, due process, and public-utility-status lawsuits that they are involved in.
  • They would have to overcome all the other obstacles that pipeline opponents will no doubt raise in the coming months.

Of course, Sunoco/ETP has the best lawyers money can buy (and the best thugs, too, to judge by the Standing Rock fiasco). And they have greased many a powerful palm. They may be able to buy and bully their way to success, on schedule. But there are still vestiges of justice in this country, and public outrage can still be a powerful force.  Perhaps Sunoco/ETP has underestimated those factors.