Pennsylvania Fines Sunoco Mariner East 2 NGL Pipeline for Drilling Fluid Spills

(Reuters) — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) fined Energy Transfer LP's Sunoco Pipeline unit again this week for spilling drilling fluid during construction of its long-delayed Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline

The $355,636 fine assessed Thursday for violations in 2018 and 2019 was just the latest in a long series of sanctions against the company for spills and other violations of its construction permits.

The biggest fine was for $12.6 million in 2018.

In addition to fining Sunoco, Pennsylvania has also stopped construction work on the pipe several times in the past due to spills and sinkholes. Several politicians and local groups have long urged the state to stop work again and shut the pipe.

Officials at Energy Transfer were not immediately available for comment. 

Since May 2017, Pennsylvania has issued 113 notices of violation to Mariner East, mostly for drilling fluid spills, including 13 so far in 2020.

In its latest fine, the DEP said Sunoco’s horizontal drilling activities resulted in unauthorized discharges of drilling fluids consisting of bentonite clay and water in several streams and wetlands between August 2018 and April 2019.

Mariner East transports liquids from the Marcellus and Utica shale in western Pennsylvania to customers in the state and elsewhere, including international exports from Energy Transfer's Marcus Hook complex near Philadelphia.

Sunoco started work on the $2.5 billion Mariner East expansion in February 2017 and had planned to finish the 350-mile (563-kilometer) pipeline in the third quarter of 2017.

But completion of Mariner East 2 was delayed until December 2018 due to several work stoppages by state agencies following numerous permit violations.

Energy Transfer is currently working on the Mariner East 2X expansion of the pipe.

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