Governor Wolf on DEP Pipeline Permit Bar

Harrisburg, PA Governor Tom Wolf today, February 8, 2019, released the following Governor Tom Wolfstatement in response to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) suspension of review of all clean water permit applications and other pending approvals associated with the Energy Transfer, L.P. (ET) and subsidiaries until further notice due to non-compliance:

“The Department of Environmental Protection has acted swiftly and decisively to hold this operator accountable to the conditions of its permits. The permit bar by the Department of Environmental Protection is the latest step my Administration has taken to ensure pipeline operators and builders are accountable for the work they do in Pennsylvania. There has been a failure by Energy Transfer and its subsidiaries to respect our laws and our communities. This is not how we strive to do business in Pennsylvania, and it will not be tolerated.”

The permit bar will affect the in-service date for the Revolution pipeline, which is currently not in service, and the Mariner East 2 pipeline in our area. There are 27 approvals currently under review by DEP for Mariner East 2. The Revolution pipeline will remain closed until full compliance has been achieved.

In addition to the permit bar, the governor called on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to continue to hold Energy Transfer (ET) and its subsidiaries accountable to stringent safety requirements which the PUC is charged with enforcing. The governor noted that the budget he proposed earlier this week funds four new gas safety inspectors at the Public Utility Commission’s Pipeline Safety Division to increase the PUC’s capacity to hold pipeline operators accountable and ensure all safety requirements are strictly enforced.”

“Today, I am calling upon the Public Utility Commission to compel ET to address lapses in communication by immediately providing county and municipal agencies responsible for public safety along the Mariner East Project route any and all information required under state and federal law to enable the preparation of robust emergency preparedness and communication plans. I have directed the Pennsylvania’s Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) to coordinate with county and local leadership to assist with review of emergency management plans, and this engagement has already begun.”

“I am also calling upon the PUC to require that a remaining life study of Mariner East 1 be completed and reviewed by independent experts. Such a study should thoroughly evaluate the safety of the existing pipeline and prepare a plan to implement the findings of that study as soon as possible.”

State agencies have provided unprecedented oversight over the Mariner East Project, issuing more than 80 violations and levying nearly $13 million in penalties. The Department of Environmental Protection has also implemented significant new processes as a result of the experience gained on a project of unprecedented scope and impact including:

  • Improved coordination with the PUC and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC);
  • Improved internal coordination and implementation through the establishment of a Regional Pipeline Permitting Coordination Office;
  • And the development of new permit conditions and policy guidelines for future pipeline development projects including more than 100 special permit conditions.

Finally, the governor has called on the General Assembly to address gaps in existing law which have tied the hands of the Executive and independent agencies charged with protecting public health, safety and the environment, calling for the speedy passage of the following legislation to protect the public:

  • No state agency currently has authority to review intrastate pipeline routes, which can result in pipeline companies deciding to site through densely populated high-consequence areas. Many states have passed legislation providing an enhanced role in siting decisions to their utility or public service commission. Legislation should provide the Public Utility Commission with authority to regulate siting and routing of intrastate pipelines in Pennsylvania.
  • Currently, pipeline operators are not required to provide information to schools which are in close proximity to a pipeline, including how to respond to a leak. Legislation should require this information for schools within 1,000 feet of a pipeline.
  • Related legislation should require public utility facilities transporting natural gas or natural gas liquids to meet with the county emergency coordinator entrusted to respond in the event of natural gas release and provide vital emergency response and evacuation information.
  • In order to respond to a potential leak, automatic or remote shutoff valves are critical. Legislation should require the installation of such valves in high consequence areas in compliance with federal requirements for transmission line valves.

Desire more specific assistance regarding FERC or PUC matters, gas, real estate, or utility law, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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