No waiver

On Thursday, March 19, Governor Wolf ordered all “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shut down. The order covered all construction projects, including Mariner East. But in a clarification on Friday, Wolf noted that a waiver could be obtained “…if a business listed for closure believes it could help mitigate this crisis by providing a life sustaining service….” On Monday, it was learned that Sunoco had applied for a waiver.

But this pipeline is not a “life-sustaining service”. If anything, it is a threat to life. And having workers in our neighborhoods, mingling in hotels and work sites, and patronizing our local stores and take-out restaurants is a recipe for viral spread. We need to make certain that no waiver is granted and that Sunoco’s workers are required to obey the same “stay at home” orders that the rest of us are under.

How do we know that Sunoco has filed for a waiver? In a Monday filing for the Safety 7 case before the PUC, Sunoco’s lawyers wrote: “…Sunoco has made requests for waivers in selected circumstances where Sunoco believes that suspension of construction will create increased risks to safety and/or the environment….” This is a bogus claim, and there is no sense in which it makes the pipeline a “life-sustaining service”.

Waiver applications are handled by the Department of Community and Economic Development. On that Department’s web site is a waiver form. It asks three basic questions:

  • “How does [the business] meet the life-sustaining definition?”
  • “Does the business have a plan to meet CDC recommended guidelines to maintain employee safety during the COVID-19 pandemic?”
  • “How many employees would be in the company’s office or physical location in order to do the critical work?”

It is clear that Sunoco cannot satisfy the first question, and probably not the second one either. But Sunoco has clout in Harrisburg, and that’s dangerous.

This is urgent: let your elected representatives, and Governor Wolf, know that Sunoco must not be given a waiver. The company is already doing enough damage without its workers spreading Covid-19 across the state. The governor has said we must all stay at home, and Sunoco workers must do the same.