(Reuters) – Delaware County District Attorney and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office started to investigate Energy Transfer Inc’s Sunoco Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline amid allegations of criminal misconduct during construction:
** “There is no question that the pipeline poses certain concerns and risks to our residents,” Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland said in a release on Monday, noting many residents have made allegations of potential criminal misconduct.
** This is the latest in a series of legal and regulatory actions against Energy Transfer over its $2.5 billion upgrade of the Mariner East project.
** In December, the District Attorney in Chester County opened a criminal investigation into Mariner East, and in February, Pennsylvania environmental regulators suspended all permit work for the company after it failed to comply with an order following an explosion on another pipeline in September.
** “We are confident that we have not acted to violate any criminal laws in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and are committed to aggressively defending ourselves,” Energy Transfer spokeswoman Lisa Dillinger said.
** The Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, which supports the project, said the criminal investigations come as the Republican District Attorneys face reelection in counties where voters have started to lean left.
“These investigations have nothing to do with a legally permitted pipeline project and everything to do with the politics of candidates seeking reelection,” Kurt Knaus, spokesman for PA Alliance for Energy said in a statement.
** 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.
** Energy Transfer started work on the expansion of the project in February 2017 and had planned to finish the new 350-mile (563-kilometer) pipeline in the third quarter of 2017. The pipe crosses 17 Pennsylvania counties, including Chester and Delaware in the southeast part of the state.
** But completion of Mariner East 2 was delayed until December 2018 due to several work stoppages by state agencies following numerous permit violations and other problems, including release of drilling fluids into waterways and discovery of sinkholes.
** Mariner East 1 remains out of service after the discovery of a sink hole near the pipe in January.
** Energy Transfer said it expects to complete another expansion of the Mariner East project, called 2X, by the end of 2019.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Richard Chang