The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has lifted its ban on construction of the Dragonpipe (Mariner East 2) in West Whiteland Township. The construction halt had resulted from State Senator Dinniman’s “emergency petition” to the PUC. In its announcement, the PUC said that construction could resume when Sunoco had the necessary Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permits.

There are two ways that PUC announcement could be interpreted. One is that Sunoco can continue with construction once it has all the necessary permits from the DEP for West Whiteland. The other (and the one that Sunoco predictably seized upon) is that construction can continue in any West Whiteland location where DEP approval is not required. In Sunoco’s view, there are 12 construction “work areas” in West Whiteland. It is waiting for DEP approval on just three of them for ME2 and ME2X construction, plus a fourth for ME2X construction only (ME2 is already complete in that work area).

In its publicity, Sunoco has emphasized that it is “only” waiting for approval on 4 of 12 sites. But that’s a bit misleading. In fact, the majority of the pipeline right-of-way in West Whiteland is in the four areas that are awaiting approval.

The map below illustrates the situation. Each of the 12 work areas is shown, and the callouts indicate

  • whether the area is HDD or open cut,
  • what percentage of the work on ME2 and ME2X has been completed already, and
  • in the four cases where DEP approval is still required, that is mentioned.
construction & approval in WWT 8-9-18
This map shows the 12 “work areas” that Sunoco has designated in West Whiteland Township. The base map is from; I have added the annotations about the status.

On inspection, you’ll see that most of the long work areas are awaiting DEP approval (areas 1, 2, 4, and 6). If you look a little harder, you’ll see that several of the other work areas (for example, areas 3, 9, and 11) are extremely short open cuts. They are simply points of connection for two HDD sections.

In fact, most of the work that remains in West Whiteland consists of four stretches that were originally approved for construction as HDD. Sunoco is proposing to switch two of them (areas 2 and 4) to open cut construction instead, and their plans for the other two (areas 1 and 6) are unknown at present.

On ETP’s quarterly earnings call for investors on August 9, Matt Ramsey (ETP’s Chief Operating Officer) claimed “…we have 16 HDDs to complete, all those have been approved by PA DEP….We don’t have to have any changes approved by PA DEP going forward….”

That does not agree with the information I have, based on materials posted on the DEP and PUC websites. I believe four areas in West Whiteland alone require DEP approval, and at least three more sites in our part of Pennsylvania still need to be approved. Either Ramsey misspoke or someone in his organization is misinforming him. Readers, please let me know if I have that wrong.