exclusive waivers 3-25-20

Sunoco wants waivers from Governor Wolf’s shut-down order so that it can keep building Mariner East. And rather than go through the waiver process that every other business in Pennsylvania must follow, Sunoco wants Wolf himself to give it a pass. The company wants its people out in the field, travelling among work sites, hotels, grocery stores, and fast-food restaurants, at exactly the time when that behavior is most likely to accelerate the spread of Covid-19 and everyone else is being ordered to stay home. Wolf must insist that Sunoco’s workers obey the rules that the rest of us must live with, particularly the “stay at home” order now in effect in eight counties (including six here in southeast Pennsylvania).

Sunoco’s waiver requests. On Friday, March 20, Sunoco emailed a package of waiver requests directly to Wolf’s office. (The full 23-page document is here.) A process for granting waivers to businesses that considered their work “life-sustaining” had already been set up within the Department of Community & Economic Development; Sunoco is trying to bypass that process (which other businesses in Pennsylvania must use).

In its waiver requests, Sunoco is asking Wolf to say it is permitted to continue work on fourteen pipeline construction sites across the state: eight horizontal directional drilling (HDD) sites, a “direct bore” site, and five open-trench sites. It also wants to continue constructing a “gathering line” in Lycoming County connecting to a newly-fracked well, and it wants permission to continue work on the environmental restoration required by its settlement with the DEP in the aftermath of the Revolution pipeline failure.

In the Covid-19 epidemic, we must all make sacrifices, including Sunoco. In its 24-page document, Sunoco makes repeated, vague references to “adverse impacts to the environment and safety concerns” if work is stopped, but never specifies what those impacts and concerns are. Certainly, if Sunoco complies with the Governor’s order, its timetable for Mariner East completion will be set back. Some of its work will be lost and will need to be redone. But how serious are those “adverse impacts to the environment and safety concerns” in the context of Covid-19?

By contrast, the risk to human lives if Sunoco workers are allowed to continue working is clear and stark. With the spread of Covid-19 threatening to overwhelm our healthcare system, businesses are being asked to make major sacrifices for the sake of human lives. Many businesses will be severely hurt, and some will not recover. Why does Sunoco think that it alone should be exempt from that program?

The next few weeks are critical for the containment of Covid-19 in Pennsylvania. It is critical that people are not congregating and are not travelling around the state, as Sunoco’s workers will  be doing if the waivers are granted.

Let the Governor, and your elected representatives, know that Sunoco must be held to the same standard as the rest of Pennsylvania businesses. No doubt Sunoco’s timetable will be pushed back and its business will suffer, but this is a desperate time and sacrifices must be made. That is exactly what is required of us all, including Sunoco. No waivers should be granted.