Pennsylvania permits halted for Texas-based pipeline company

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania is halting construction permits for natural gas pipelines operated by a company whose pipeline exploded last year, as the governor said Friday that Energy Transfer LP has failed to respect the state's laws and communities.

The state Department of Environmental Protection said the Texas-based company is not fixing problems related to the explosion, and piled yet another penalty onto a company project in the state.

State agencies already have imposed millions of dollars in fines and several temporary shutdown orders on Energy Transfer projects, while a county prosecutor is demanding documents from the company.

The methane gas explosion destroyed one home in Beaver County last September along the Beaver-to-Butler County pipeline. The Dallas-based firm blamed the blast on "earth movement in the vicinity of the pipeline."

"There has been a failure by Energy Transfer and its subsidiaries to respect our laws and our communities," Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement Friday. "This is not how we strive to do business in Pennsylvania, and it will not be tolerated."

The Department of Environmental Protection said Energy Transfer hasn't stabilized the soil and erosion around its Revolution pipeline in western Pennsylvania, as it was ordered to do in October.

As a result, it is halting construction permits on the company's pipelines in the state, it said.

"This hold will continue until the operator corrects their violations to our satisfaction," Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement.

Energy Transfer said it told state officials that it is committed to bringing the Revolution pipeline "into full compliance with all environmental permits and applicable regulations."

In a statement, it said the action did not affect the operation of any of its in-service pipelines or any areas of construction where permits have already been issued.

Energy Transfer's pipelines in Pennsylvania include the Mariner East 1, 2 and 2X natural gas liquids pipelines across southern Pennsylvania.

A DEP spokesman, Neil Shader, said permits for the 16-inch Mariner East 2X — which has yet to start operating — are now on hold.

Construction on those three pipelines has drawn blame for causing sinkholes and polluting drinking water and waterways across the state.

That has resulted in more than $13 million in fines and several temporary shutdown orders from state agencies, including one last month by the Public Utility Commission that has kept the Mariner East 1 pipeline shut down following a sinkhole that developed in suburban Philadelphia's Chester County.

Nearby residents worried over sinkholes along the Mariner East pipelines sued Energy Transfer last summer in federal court. Chester County's district attorney, Tom Hogan, is demanding documents from the company as part of a criminal investigation he opened.

Energy Transfer has said it is confident that it hasn't violated criminal laws.

Also Friday, Wolf called on the Public Utility Commission to require an independent study to determine how long the Mariner East 1 pipeline can continue operating — it is roughly 80 years old — and asked lawmakers to pass legislation giving the state the power to regulate the routes and safety features of intrastate pipelines.

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