The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Thursday announced it has issued a $12.6 million civil penalty to Sunoco Pipeline LLC for permit violations related to the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline project.
As a result of the consent order and agreement, which includes the penalty and a “stringent compliance review,” the DEP has also lifted the order suspending DEP-permitted operations on the pipeline.
The $12.6 million penalty will go to the Clean Water Fund and the Dams and Encroachments Fund. The DEP said the penalty is one of the largest civil penalties collected in a single settlement.
“Throughout the life of this project, DEP has consistently held this operator to the highest standard possible,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a news release. “A permit suspension is one of the most significant penalties DEP can levy. Our action to suspend the permits associated with this project, and the collection of this penalty, are indicative of the strict oversight that DEP has consistently exercised over this project. (Thursday’s) announcement is by no means the end of DEP’s oversight.
“Since the permit suspension over a month ago, Sunoco has demonstrated that it has taken steps to ensure the company will conduct the remaining pipeline construction activities in accordance with the law and permit conditions, and will be allowed to resume,” McDonnell said. “DEP will be monitoring activities closely to ensure that Sunoco is meeting the terms of this agreement and its permits.”
According to the Associated Press, the company said Thursday it agreed to the deal to avoid litigation and resume construction on a major pipeline project.
“While we strongly disagree with their legal conclusions that our conduct was willful or egregious, we felt it was important to our unit holders and to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania that we move forward rather than engage in continued litigation,” according to a statement released by spokesman Jeff Shields.
The consent agreement, dated Thursday, specifies that Sunoco will withdraw an appeal filed a few days ago of last month’s order.
The DEP had issued a suspension on Jan. 3 after it discovered violations in pipeline work in the state. In that order, the DEP listed the violations, some of which occurred in the Midstate.
The DEP report claimed Sunoco’s contractors did not properly adhere to water safety standards regarding a bridge in Perry County, and there were concerns in Silver Spring Township regarding the affect construction was having on well water.
Part of Sunoco’s response was to remedy those situations.
The DEP said Sunoco has submitted responses and also a revised Operations Plan, which includes measures to ensure that all permit conditions will be followed and to minimize inadvertent chemical returns and water supply incidents.
The DEP said it reviewed all the submitted materials and conducted additional inspections since the suspension, and it believes Sunoco has met its requirements of the Jan. 3 order.
“DEP will continue to monitor and enforce the conditions of the permits, and will take necessary enforcement actions for any future violations,” McDonnell said. “If a resident should witness pollution from the pipeline affecting streams or other waterways, then please alert DEP at 1-800-541-2050.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.