• Mallory Spencer

Make the Movement Move


Well I dedicate my life to the people who need the light To help them rise above the scam on the land and their lives And I'm cuttin' like a knife All the lies by the slice Independent of this democracy is really worth the bite My request in reasonable, a tribe undefeatable Ambitiously movin' toward solutions that are feasible It's unbelievable, all the slow movin' people And they could care less, just as long as they are comfortable It's unforgivable, because the conditions now are critical And whether or not you're ready we are now approachin' a pinnacle It's difficult to say exactly what to do But the change begins with me and I reflect it back to you And you, and you, and you Come on, man, make the movement move! Lyrics from “Vultures of Culture” By: Nahko and Medicine for the People

When I first learned about the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at Standing Rock I felt motivated to help in any way possible- donating to the legal and supply funds, sharing articles and videos to raise awareness about the issue, and staying as up to date and informed as possible. The Water Protectors engaged in nonviolent protest on the sacred land of the Sioux Nation, Dakota and Lakota Tribes. Encampments were set up, prayers were shared, sage was burned, a community was formed. The issue gained national attention and people from all over the world supported the Water Protectors in their courageous endeavor. The Protectors wanted to defend their rights to clean air, clean water, and private property, putting themselves at risk to defend the drinking water for millions of people who depend on the Missouri River, and the rest of the country who are slowly watching their rights be taken away. People at the camps were met with brutalization from militarized police forces for exercising their right to freedom of speech, assembly, and association.

Then, in November 2016, I learned that the same company responsible for the DAPL, Energy Transfer Partners, was putting a pipeline right through my own community through its association with Sunoco Logistics.

Learning about the Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines was a huge wake up call for me, and the desire to act grew more and more each day. That's when I learned about the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety (MCCS). As I became more informed about the project and more involved with this grassroots organization, I felt the need to raise public awareness and join community resistance to the ME2 and 2X pipelines for numerous reasons.

1. Contents of the Pipelines

These pipelines, if constructed, would carry Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) consisting of artificially liquefied ethane, propane, and butane, which are highly volatile, colorless, odorless, invisible, asphyxiating, and combustible. ME2 and ME2X are a 20” and 16” pipeline, under 1440 PSI of pressure, moving up to 700,000 barrels of NGLs per day. This is not your average methane gas pipeline for heating homes and cooking. In the event of a leak or rupture NGLs return to their gaseous state, expand, hang low to the ground, and travel with the wind. They can travel for some distance before igniting. The contents of the pipeline would be transported across Pennsylvania from Marcellus Shale to Marcus Hook where they will be refined and shipped overseas to Europe to make plastic. Additionally, the 8" Mariner East 1 pipeline, already in operation, is over 80 years old and was designed in 1931 to carry petroleum products from Marcus Hook to Western PA. Sunoco reversed the flow, increased the pressure, and changed the product that flows in ME1. The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) cautions against doing any ONE of those things, let alone all three at once. ME1 is currently transporting NGLs through densely populated communities, and had at least 2 leaks in 2016.

2. High Consequence and High Probability Community Safety Risks

Delaware County has the highest population density in the entire state of Pennsylvania, the chances of someone in the area of a leak lighting a cigarette, using a cell phone, or starting their car is extremely high, and any of those actions could ignite the gases, causing an explosion. The line also runs within 650 feet of Glenwood Elementary School. There are as many as 40 public and private schools within the blast zone of ME2 across PA. There are also hospitals, retirement and residential communities, and local businesses all within the blast zone of the pipeline.

3. Sunoco's Poor Safety Record

Sunoco has the worst safety record in the industry. There has been an average of over 2 leaks per month every month for the past 10 years. There was a major leak in PA last year that released 55,000 gallons of gasoline into the Susquehanna River. There were several leaks in Edgmont Township that contaminated well water. In May 2016, there was an ethane leak at a pumping station in Aston. With 733,362 gallons of hazardous liquids spilled, and close to $50,000 in direct property damage between 2006 and 2016, Sunoco has had more incidents over this time period than any other of the almost 2,000 operators. Explosions have already occurred in rural areas of other states with similar NGL pipelines, but there haven't been casualties simply because the location of the pipeline is so far from densely populated areas. This is not the case of the Mariner East Pipelines in Pennsylvania.

4. Manipulation and Lack of Transparency from Sunoco and State Government

No public hearing was held in Delaware County, where Marcus Hook Refinery is located. There were 60 day comment periods held in August 2016, but none after the most recent Sunoco permit application submission. I didn't learn about the project until November and when I called and emailed the DEP to request a 60 day public comment period, along with thousands of others, and we were denied. Sunoco logistics also announced a second pipeline, ME2X, as part of this project only after they received permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). This increases the amount of product being transported, which increases the safety risks.

Why not be upfront about your project with two pipelines if they're so safe? Why wait until you already have your permits to mention a second pipeline?

In addition to this lack of transparency on the part of the PADEP and Sunoco, eminent domain is being used to manipulate the public. Landowners have faced pressure by Sunoco land agents, who offered compensation in exchange for building through residents’ properties. However, they applied additional pressure with the use of eminent domain to take the land anyway if the owners rejected the easements that Sunoco offered. As I said earlier, the contents of these pipelines will be sent overseas to Europe to be made into plastic. This is NOT a public utility, like methane natural gas. This is purely for Sunoco's profit.

5. No Evacuation Plan

In the event that this pipeline is complete, and there is a leak that causes an emergency, there is no viable evacuation plan in place. The generic industry plan in the event of a leak is to self-evacuate on foot, up wind, to a distance of no less than ½ a mile, avoiding use of vehicles, cell phones, or other potential ignition sources.

How will that work if the devices used to measure the presence of the gases could cause them to ignite? How will that work if the leak occurs near a school or hospital?

How will that work if the equipment first responders use could cause the invisible, odorless, colorless gas to ignite?

With all of these factors, I felt more motivated than ever before to join the movement to resist this pipeline. Fracked gas is an unsustainable energy source, with many health and safety risks associated with it. The future of sustainable energy is in wind, solar, and water. Democracy is not a spectator sport, we must get more involved to protect our own communities and work together towards a sustainable future. I believe that starts with resisting, and hopefully stopping, the Mariner East NGL Pipeline Project. It starts with small changes we can make in how we spend our time, money, and energy. Give a little bit here and there to organizations or causes that inspire you to be more active and make a difference in your community.

I recently learned about the growing Community Rights Movement in Pennsylvania and around the country that is working to establish local, state, national, and international rights for humans and nature. This form of legislation is necessary to prevent the boxed in activism we face when our elected officials refuse to help us stop dangerous projects that are brought into our communities for corporate gains. We must create a truly democratic system where we live with the help of courageous committed people. We need sustainable laws that protect our natural resources and our people. Evaluate your skill sets, consider what motivates you, start to make some connections with like minded individuals. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Come on, and make the movement move!


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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ― Margaret Mead

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