Governor Wolf, in beginning the “reopening” of Pennsylvania, gave local elected officials authority to set more stringent restrictions on activity than those of the state. “Utility” construction is permitted until Wolf’s rules, and Sunoco’s lawyers have gotten the state to classify the Dragonpipe (Mariner East pipeline system) as a utility, but the governor’s announcement appeared to give our counties and municipalities the ability to halt construction of Mariner East if the construction threatened to spread Covid-19.
However, Delaware and Chester Counties have apparently decided that (despite the governor’s order) the PUC still has authority over pipeline work, and neither county plans to institute stricter rules of its own.
Let’s assume that view is correct, and the PUC is the only entity that can deal with pipeline construction safety. Let’s also assume that our elected representatives in both counties actually believe that pipeline workers are adding to the spread of Covid-19. (After all, with the rest of us still under stay-at-home orders, these out-of-state workers are still working, driving, living, and eating together and patronizing our stores and restaurants.) Given those two assumptions, the counties should be calling on the PUC to stop pipeline work.
Ask your county for an “emergency petition”. The way to halt work is via a “petition for emergency relief” to the PUC. That’s the mechanism the PUC has for dealing with situations that require relatively quick action. In principle, anyone can file an emergency petition, but in this case it probably makes the most sense for the counties to do it.
Delaware County Council is meeting this week. The “agenda meeting”, where the details of agenda items are discussed, is tomorrow (Tuesday, May 19) at 10 a.m. and the voting meeting is the following day (May 20) at 6 p.m. Although meetings are currently “virtual”, you can still submit a public comment (by email or by phone), and that is what I am urging you to do.
Your comment should ask for the county to file an emergency petition with the PUC immediately. The petition should ask the PUC to Sunoco halt all pipeline work in our counties until the governor lifts his stay-at-home order for the area. The PUC is responsible for public safety, so this is clearly within their authority.
To comment by email, send your comment to: PublicComment@co.delaware.pa.us
Be sure to provide your name and address. Your comment will be read during the public comment period of the Council meeting. Council meetings are livestreamed at https://www.facebook.com/DelawareCountyCouncil/.
Chester County should file too. Chester County residents won’t have a chance for public comment until the June Commissioners Meeting. But Chester County residents should email their commissioners now to let them know that you expect them to also file an emergency petition.
Our state is facing its worst health crisis in at least 100 years, and the pipeline work is making it even worse. The PUC needs to take its mission seriously and stop the pipeline work now.
Both meetings will be live streamed on the County’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DelawareCountyCouncil/
Residents can email in their public comment. Public comments must be submitted with the same information that is requested at a public meeting including the person’s name and address.
Emails can be sent immediately to: PublicComment@co.delaware.pa.us
Public comment will be accepted until each meeting is adjourned. The public comments will be read into record during the meeting and Council will respond if warranted. If you do not have access to email you can call in your public comment: 610-891-4931. Please give your name, address and public comment. Your comment will be transcribed and read into record. Emailed or phoned-in comments deemed inappropriate will not be read into public record.