(Reuters) - Pennsylvania environmental regulators on Thursday allowed Sunoco Pipeline LLP to resume work on its Mariner 2 East natural gas liquids pipeline after the company agreed to pay a $12.6 million fine for violations.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which ordered the company to stop work on the $2.5 billion project on Jan. 3, said in a release that the fine was one of the largest civil penalties in a single settlement.
“DEP will be monitoring activities closely to ensure that Sunoco is meeting the terms of this agreement and its permits,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell, said in the release.
Sunoco Pipeline is a unit of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP.
Jeff Shields, a spokesman for the Mariner East project, said in an email that ETP is “committed to fully complying with the DEP order, which includes following all permit requirements.”
Shields, however, said the company strongly disagreed with DEP’s legal conclusions that Sunoco’s 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,” Shields said.
He did not say when the company planned to put the pipeline in service, noting that about 93 percent of mainline pipe construction and about 64 percent of horizontal directional drilling was complete.
Energy companies use horizontal drilling to cross under obstacles like roads and rivers.
Before the DEP’s order to stop work in January, ETP had expected to complete the project in the second quarter of 2018.
Completion was initially expected in the third quarter of 2017, but the DEP ordered the company to stop some work on the project in July following fluid spills from horizontal directional drilling activities.
Mariner East 2 is just one of ETP’s projects, which include the Dakota Access crude line from North Dakota to Illinois and the Rover natural gas pipe from Pennsylvania to Michigan, that has come under intense regulatory scrutiny for environmental and other reasons over the past year.
Once complete, Mariner East 2 will expand the total takeaway capacity of the Mariner East project to 345,000 barrels per day to move propane, ethane and butane from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to customers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, including ETP’s Marcus Hook industrial complex near Philadelphia, according to ETP’s website.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Tom Brown