PaPUC Clarifies Settlement Involving ‘Remaining Life Study’ & Enhanced Public Reporting on Integrity of Sunoco’s Mariner East 1 Pipeline

puc_sealToday, May 21, 2020, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) or (Commission) clarified a section of a March 2020 Tentative Order directing an independent “remaining life study” of the Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline crossing Pennsylvania – and established a 10-day period for comments by active and interested parties.

The Commission voted 4-0 today in favor of a Second Tentative Order & Opinion which approves – with modifications and clarifications – a joint settlement between the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (I&E) and Sunoco Pipeline L.P. (Sunoco).

The settlement springs from a pipeline safety investigation of an April 2017 incident on Sunoco’s ME1 pipeline near Morgantown, Berks County, involving the leak of approximately 840 gallons of ethane and propane.

Today’s action by the Commission clarified several points from the Commission’s initial March 2020 action related to:

  • Communication between the independent expert, I&E and Sunoco to obtain and verify the accuracy of information necessary to the remaining life study and public summary.
  • Procedures for submission of the independent expert’s remaining life study and public summary.
  • A period for comment by active and interested parties regarding today’s Second Tentative Order and a period for parties to consider withdrawal from the modified settlement.

The Commission’s initial March 2020 Tentative Order contained several key safety and transparency components, including:

  • A remaining life study of ME1, to be conducted by an independent expert, intended to assess the longevity of the pipeline – to be completed within six months of the independent expert being selected and contracted, and including a public summary of the expert’s findings.
  • Annual reports from Sunoco to the PUC, for as long as ME1 remains in service transporting highly volatile liquids, as a supplement to the remaining life study – to include public versions of these annual reports.
  • Surveys of ME1 for the next three years to evaluate the effectiveness of Sunoco’s corrosion control program – to be followed by discussions with I&E regarding corrosion analysis and inspection frequencies.
  • Annual progress reports by Sunoco to the PUC for the next three years, documenting compliance with the terms of the Commission’s Order and the settlement.
  • A $200,000 civil penalty for Sunoco, payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to be paid within 30 days of the approval of the settlement.

If no additional comments are filed by active and interested parties regarding the modification and clarification of this settlement, and if I&E or Sunoco take no steps to withdraw from the settlement within the designated period, today’s Second Tentative Opinion and Order will take full effect without any further action by the Commission.

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

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