MCCS Response to Sunoco Article
Response to January 11, 2017 Delco Times article.
Why is Sunoco so concerned about local townships assessing the risks associated with its proposed Mariner East 2 hazardous, highly volatile liquids pipeline?
Most townships along the proposed Mariner East 2 route do not have any type of risk analysis regarding the severity of emergencies that could occur during a release of ethane, propane, or butane. But at least one, Middletown Township in Delaware County, has rated hazardous materials releases as the most critical of all public emergencies it considered. If Sunoco or federal regulators possess the type of risk analysis that examines worst case scenarios and their likelihood with respect to ME2, then this information should be made available to local townships so that appropriate mitigation steps can be prepared. Evacuation plans must be area specific, taking into account the location of residences, schools, hospitals, and businesses, public notification systems, and on-foot evacuation methods.
Sunoco representatives claim that safety concerns are covered by the federal regulations that govern hazardous liquid pipelines. This is inaccurate. The proposed ME2 pipeline is being regulated as if the materials were gasoline or crude oil. But if this pipeline leaks, it will not leak into the ground like oil. It will escape as extremely flammable or explosive gas which is colorless, odorless, asphyxiating, and heavier than air. This gas will flow along the ground and in previous fatal accidents has caused destruction over areas measured in square miles. Because of this, the “hazardous liquid” classification is simply inadequate.
Sunoco claims the type of emergency residents are concerned about “doesn’t happen.” This ignores Sunoco’s safety record of 281 hazardous liquid pipeline leaks since 2006, more than any of the 2,049 operators tracked by the federal government. A few examples: a leak discovered by a landowner in Edgmont in 2015 (Sunoco's third hazardous liquid leak in Edgmont in recent memory); an October 21, 2016 leak of a reported 55,000 gallons of gasoline into the Susquehanna River (Sunoco's fourth leak on that same pipeline); two separate leaks of highly volatile liquids in Pennsylvania during 2016, both in "high consequence areas."
Additionally, leaks have occurred on pipelines similar to ME2. In rural Follansbee, West Virginia, a 20” high pressure ethane pipeline ruptured igniting a million gallons of ethane, just 13 months after installation. An explosion such as this would cause significant casualties and damage in densely populated Delaware County, where the pipeline is slated to run just 50 feet from some residences, and only a few hundred feet from Glenwood Elementary School.
Sunoco claims we should feel comforted by an Accufacts report commissioned by West Goshen Township. But an earlier Accufacts report acknowledges that “Federal pipeline regulations provide limited levels of safety assurance.” Moreover, that Accufacts report confirms that “pipelines moving HVLs can have serious consequences.” Accufacts also informs us that Sunoco’s efforts “cannot guarantee against a release”. Because Accufacts does not quantify either consequences or likelihood, it is not the kind of risk assessment our municipal policymakers need to make educated decisions regarding public safety. Most importantly, the Accufacts report does not provide any information about development of area-specific emergency evacuation plans.
Credible risk assessment is required to establish the necessary mitigation for emergencies caused by HVL leaks. First responders have not been provided the information necessary to respond to a large scale leak on Sunoco’s proposed Mariner East pipelines. Neither has the public, and in order to survive a large scale leak, the public will need to be prepared to self-evacuate. Public preparedness is both critical and nonexistent at this point.