(Reuters) – Energy Transfer LP representatives are heading to Pennsylvania’s capital on Thursday for a hearing before utility regulators to defend the company’s plan to put the Sunoco Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipe into service by year end.
Energy Transfer wants to temporarily connect an existing 1930s-era 12-inch (30.5 centimeter) pipe to the parts of its long-delayed 20-inch Mariner East 2 pipeline that it has already completed so it can start transporting liquids for customers.
Those customers have been waiting for more than a year to ship liquids on Mariner East 2. When Energy Transfer first started working on the $2.5 billion project in February 2017, it had planned to put the 350-mile (563-kilometer) pipe into service in the third quarter of 2017.
Mariner East 2 and another Energy Transfer project, the Rover natural gas pipe from Ohio to Michigan, were delayed over the past year in part because the projects together racked up more than 800 state and federal permit violations while the company raced to build them.
Those opposed to Energy Transfer’s plans for Mariner East 2 asked the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to stop construction on Mariner East 2 and also stop the company from transporting liquids on the existing Mariner East 1 pipeline.
The administrative law judge at the PUC scheduled to hear the case on Thursday is Elizabeth Barnes, the same judge who heard a case earlier this year that sought to stop the Mariner East project.
In that case, Judge Barnes ordered Energy Transfer to stop transporting gas on Mariner East 1 and stop work on Mariner East 2 in West Whiteland Township after sinkholes were discovered near the pipeline.
Mariner East 1 returned to service in June.
In the latest case, seven residents of Delaware and Chester Counties in southeast Pennsylvania argued Energy Transfer did “not provide adequate notice of procedures sufficient to ensure the safety of the public in the event of a leak or rupture.”
In response, Energy Transfer spokeswoman Lisa Dillinger said in an email “We do not believe the claim is valid…The integrity of our Mariner East 1 and 2 pipelines has been verified in the last few months” by state and federal regulators.
Mariner East transports liquids from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields in western Pennsylvania to customers in the state and elsewhere, including international exports from Energy Transfer’s Marcus Hook complex near Philadelphia.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by David Gregorio