Pennsylvania charges Energy Transfer with environmental crimes

A natural gas pipeline is seen under construction near East Smithfield in Bradford County, Pennsylvania
A natural gas pipeline is seen under construction in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, January 7, 2012. REUTERS/Les Stone

Oct 5 (Reuters) - Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro charged Energy Transfer LP (ET.N) with 48 counts of environmental crimes for its conduct during construction of the long-delayed Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline.

"There is a duty to protect our air and water, and when companies harm these vital resources through negligence — it is a crime,” Shapiro said in a statement.

Mariner East has been slowed by numerous work stoppages by state and local officials mostly related to sinkholes that developed near the pipeline or spills of drilling fluids used to bore under waterways.

Energy Transfer, which was not immediately available for comment, said recently it planned to complete all phases of the pipeline expansion by the end of 2021.

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

The Attorney General's office said that in addition to repeatedly spilling thousands of gallons of drilling fluid, Energy Transfer on several occasions failed to report the spills to state environmental regulators in spite of the legal requirement to do so.

In addition, the Attorney General's office said the drilling fluid contained unapproved additives at multiple locations that affected drinking water in wells.

“If convicted, this company will be sentenced to fines and restitution. There is no jail time for these environmental crimes, and fines are not enough," Shapiro said, noting his office was "calling for stronger laws to hold these companies accountable."

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

Since May 2017, Pennsylvania has issued about 125 notices of violation to Mariner East, mostly for drilling fluid spills, including two in September.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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