It has been a roller-coaster year for opponents of the Dragonpipe (Mariner East pipeline system). There have been delays, stoppages, fines, hearings, and investigations; but despite the delays Sunoco has forged ahead with much of its construction and some of its operational plans. Neither side shows any sign of giving up, so we can expect these conflicts to continue in 2019.
You can get a picture of some of the important events of 2018 from reviewing the most-read posts from Dragonpipe Diary. Only 75 people subscribe to the blog, and many of the 144 posts have been viewed only a handful of times. But the most popular posts get over a thousand views, thanks to pass-along readership and Facebook posts. Here are the top 10, ranked by number of views, in reverse order. (Click on the title to read the actual post.)
#10: Sunoco’s 12-inch “bypass” pipeline is their most dangerous idea yet
This post, from July 13, was the first one to look at the route and the safety issues related to the 12-inch “bypass” pipeline (now apparently in operation). Those issues have not gone away, and the PUC’s recent complaint about the corrosion of Mariner East 1 (ME1) suggests that there could be similar problems with the 12-inch pipeline. (ME1 is an 8-inch pipeline from the 1930s that was repurposed several years ago to carry volatile liquids from western Pennsylvania. The 12-inch “bypass” pipeline is almost as old. Until this summer, it had been carrying gasoline from Philadelphia to the Reading area; on December 29, Sunoco announced that it too had been put into operation carrying volatile liquids the opposite direction through Chester and Delaware Counties.)
#9: Delaware County’s risk assessment: the blast zone is far larger than we thought
From the Citizens’ Risk Assessment, we knew that fatalities could occur within a half mile of the pipeline. The report of the risk assessment commissioned by Delaware County was released right after Thanksgiving, and it told us that, in fact, a release could result in fatalities more than a mile away.
#8: New neighborhoods in Uwchlan and Upper Uwchlan will be affected if Sunoco bypasses the Dragonpipe
This post showed exactly where the 12-inch “bypass” pipeline was located in northern Chester County, where its route deviated from ME1. Importantly, it not only passes close to Shamona Creek Elementary School, but it has an above-ground valve site—a potential point of problems—right by the school.
#7: More comments needed! Chester County library and Route 100 sites
This February blog post was a call for comments to the Department of Environmental Protection concerning Sunoco’s plans to switch from HDD to trenching in the Exton area. Dozens of residents responded, and it ultimately took Sunoco many more months to gain DEP approval for the plan.
#6: Sunoco sat by while ME1 rusted
This very recent post (from December 26) summarizes three key elements of the complaint that the Public Utility Commission’s own inspectors filed against Sunoco in connection with the April 2017 leak of the ME1 near Morgantown. This post continues to be widely read, and it may end up with more views than some of the higher-ranked posts.
#5: Based on Delaware County’s Risk Assessment, a pipeline rupture could kill thousands
This post showed, with a Google map overlay, the worst-case “flash fire” area based on the risk assessment commissioned by Delaware County. A rupture near Glenwood School could result in fatalities, not only near the school, but at the Lima Fire Station, the Riddle Hospital, the Granite Run shopping mall, and many nearby residential areas.
#4: Chester County DA launches criminal investigation of Sunoco
This post, from December 19, provided details about investigation launched by the Chester County District Attorney into possible criminal activities by Sunoco. This post continues to be widely read, and it may end up with more views than some of the higher-ranked posts.
#3: Sunoco’s destructive plans for the Chester County Library lawn
This post, from January, alerted readers to the fact that Sunoco planned to turn the grounds of the beloved Chester County Library into a construction site. Although that construction is currently on hold (having been bypassed by the 12-inch line), Sunoco’s plan has not changed.
#2: SB 652: A year in jail for even talking about this blog post?
In September, a draconian bill for suppressing pipeline opposition, supported by the oil and gas industry, was introduced in the state senate. After public outcry, it was tabled.
#1: Aston at risk: the pipeline danger at Pennell Elementary School
It was a surprise to me that this November post was so widely viewed. Pipeline opposition in Aston has not been very vocal, but the popularity of this post shows that it is widespread under the surface. Pennell Elementary School is right next to ME1 and would be vulnerable to a leak. In fact, ME1 (unlike the other Dragonpipe pipelines) runs right through the heart of Aston, and much of the township is at risk.
So there you have it. If there is a theme to the most-read posts, it is the need to properly address pipeline risks, and the risks to schools in particular. In the course of 2018, this has gradually been recognized by the news media, by local and state government, and—to a degree—by the PUC.
In 2019, it is my hope that this trend will grow. I hope that the risks will become so widely recognized and public opposition will become so intense that politicians and regulators will be forced to act. I will continue to highlight the problems associated with the Dragonpipe and the disinformation that Sunoco puts out. We now have two very dangerous pipelines in operation and no one has yet gotten serious about addressing the risks. Let’s change that in 2019!