Last spring, Sunoco asked Media Borough for an increase in its temporary workspace on Borough-owned land along Chester Creek near Tunbridge Apartments in Middletown. The company also asked for an increase in the size of the permanent easement in that area. The Borough turned them down on both requests.

Sunoco has decided to ignore Media Borough’s rights. Now, the company has begun construction and tree clearing on property it has no right to be on. It has decided it is OK to trespass.  

In the drone photo below, the red dashed line shows the approximate boundary of the space where Sunoco has permission to operate (the permanent pipeline easement and the temporary workspace it had previously obtained). The arrow indicates the area where Sunoco has laid down planking for an access road. The rectangular structure in the center of the photo is Sunoco’s existing valve station at the site. (It is used for older pipelines in the easement, but apparently will not be used for Mariner East.)

Sunoco’s work near Tunbridge apartments. The red dashed lines indicate the area where Sunoco has the right to operate. The red arrow shows where Sunoco’s construction work is apparently illegal.

Sunoco is obviously using Media Borough’s land without permission. Sunoco (like its parent, Energy Transfer) clearly thinks it is above the law. Both ET and Sunoco have behaved this way in Pennsylvania many times before. ET’s most egregious violations involved illegally filling in dozens of streams and wetlands in constructing the Rover pipeline in western PA. (And of course, ET’s legal problems with the Dakota Access pipeline stem from building and operating the pipeline without getting the necessary permits first.) But Sunoco, too, has many violations along Mariner East. It has drilled illegally, rerouted streams illegally, removed trees illegally, and so on.

The question is: what should be done about Sunoco’s illegal behavior in this case? I can think of several things. Media Borough Council can start by sending a surveyor to mark the boundary of the existing “temporary work area” accurately. The Borough can post signs saying “No construction activity beyond this point”. It should insist that the plank road be removed. If Sunoco actually uses it, the Borough should call in the state police and have people arrested for trespassing. That would get their attention.

Back in early 2019, on a conference call with financial analysts, ET’s CEO Kelcy Warren said that ET had learned it had to clean up its act in Pennsylvania. “Every place is not Texas,” Warren said. “We made some mistakes, and specifically now we’d like to talk about Pennsylvania, and we’re going to take our medicine and fix those mistakes and complete good projects from this point forward.”

And what has changed since then? Nothing.