Chester Commissioners with redacted safety plan 3-14-19
Chester County’s commissioners consider what to do with Sunoco’s plan, much of which is blacked out.

Chester County has repeatedly asked Sunoco for a copy of its “emergency management plan”. This is the plan that is supposed to help the County’s emergency services prepare for a pipeline leak or rupture. Natural gas liquids, with the potential to form a large and deadly flammable cloud, have been flowing through the County since at least 2016, and yet Sunoco has not provided the information emergency responders need.

Today (March 14, 2019), Sunoco finally provided a copy of the plan to the County, but it was so heavily redacted that it was mostly unusable. Sunoco claimed the redaction was done for “security reasons”, but in practical terms it means the plan has virtually no value for emergency planning. In the County’s press release, Mike Murphy, Director of Chester County’s Department of Emergency Services, said that “only about five percent of the plan is usable”.

In a photo showing eight pages of the plan, three pages appear to be totally blacked out and three more appear to be at least half blacked out.

I have to wonder why Sunoco chose to submit this useless plan. Security does not seem to be the real issue involved in the redactions. If so, plans from other companies would have been similarly redacted. But according to County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone, of the ten pipeline operators in the County, “none of the other pipeline operator plans include large chunks of blacked-out information.”

So is this simply a remarkably clumsy attempt by Sunoco to fulfill an obligation it has been avoiding? That seems unlikely too. Sunoco has frequently shot itself in the foot, but this redaction seems too comprehensive to be unintentional, even for Sunoco.

I am left to conclude that the most likely explanation is that Sunoco is simply thumbing its nose at the County because of its recent regulatory and legal actions (see “Finally! Chester County joins the pipeline fight, with moves on easements and intervention”). If Sunoco is finally “learning from its mistakes” in Pennsylvania (to quote a recent statement by CEO Kelcy Warren), it still has a lot of learning left to do.