delco logo 6-16-19

On June 12, Delaware County Council became the latest elected body to ask Governor Wolf for a construction moratorium on the Dragonpipe (Mariner East pipeline). The moratorium would last “until there is a credible and practicable public response program and emergency response plan that accounts for the unique hazards of [the compressed gasses being transported] and the density and immobility of vulnerable populations within the impact radius”.

The full text of the resolution is here.

The moratorium request was the subject of a resolution passed by Delaware County Council, and it marks a major shift in political attitudes toward the pipeline project. A few years ago, the Council was entirely Republican and was generally supportive of the pipeline. In 2017, Democrats won two of the five seats, and they have been steadfast in their pipeline opposition. Gradually, the entire Council’s position has shifted.

Of course, the increasing public outcry about the pipeline has raised the pressure on all the local politicians, regardless of party, and they have all been scrambling to show that they are concerned about the risks posed by the pipeline. The first substantial move by Delaware County Council was the commissioning of a risk assessment, which was authorized in early 2018 and published the following November. Now comes the resolution requesting a moratorium.

The shift in the Council’s position echoes similar shifts occurring in local jurisdictions and school boards throughout southeast Pennsylvania. For many communities along the Dragonpipe route, pipeline risk has become the key issue in local elections, and candidates for almost every office are making it central to their campaigns. For pipeline opponents, the focus must now be to generate the same level of public awareness across the state, until the pressure for action on safety is unavoidable.

So far, Sunoco has tried hard to avoid any discussion of risk. They have claimed the pipeline helps with energy independence (it doesn’t: almost all the contents is destined for European plastic production), and they have portrayed the opposition as tree-huggers (also wrong: most are primarily concerned about risks to human life, although the environment is clearly harmed by both fracking and plastic).

Sunoco knows well that if there is a large leak in a populated area, there is no emergency response that can prevent mass casualties. That explains why Sunoco will do everything in its power to avoid a construction moratorium: if construction is halted until there is “a credible and practicable public response program and emergency response plan”, it is very likely that construction will never resume.