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Explosion Sparks Calls for More Pipeline Scrutiny

Fossil fuel infrastructure in the U.S. includes about 2.6 million miles of pipelines. (Reinhard Tiburzy/Adobe Stock)
Fossil fuel infrastructure in the U.S. includes about 2.6 million miles of pipelines. (Reinhard Tiburzy/Adobe Stock)
August 9, 2019

PHILADELPHIA – Environmental groups say an explosion earlier this week at a pump station along the Mariner East 2 gas pipeline highlights regulatory flaws and lack of oversight of the project.

The explosion Monday at the Boot Road Pump Station shook homes and rattled windows half a mile away.

Sunoco, owner of the pipeline, said it was a "backfire," similar to a car backfiring, that there was no release of liquid and no danger to the public.

But Joseph Minott, executive director and chief counsel at the Clean Air Council, calls Mariner East 2 the "poster child" for what's wrong with the way the Commonwealth deals with pipelines.

"The building out of natural gas infrastructure in Pennsylvania is not being monitored properly, it's not being permitted properly, it's not being regulated properly," he states.

Sunoco says the pipeline meets or exceeds both state and federal pipeline safety regulations.

Minott points out that the cause and consequences of the explosion are still being investigated. Meanwhile, he contends regulators are telling residents that the gas infrastructure is good for the state, while leaving several important questions unanswered.

"Does the pipeline benefit Pennsylvania?” Minott wonders. “Is the pipeline being done in a safe way? Does the pipeline protect communities and residents? None of that is being done in Pennsylvania."

Minott adds that pipeline construction has been halted several times by state authorities and drilling has resulted in mud spills and numerous citations for environmental violations.

Less than a week earlier, a gas pipeline explosion in Kentucky killed one person and injured at least five others.

Minott insists state agencies and the fossil fuel industry need to stop telling people that pipelines are a safe way to transport a highly explosive product.

"It's not true,” he stresses. It “is not safe, and communities need to be told the truth. And we're finding out just how unsafe these pipelines are."

The Clean Air Council has called on Gov. Tom Wolf and the Public Utility Commission to shut down the Mariner East pipelines.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA