Charges Brought Against Energy Transfer for Environmental Crimes.
A retired Tunbridge Apartment resident, Larry remembers when the Mariner East 2 pipeline’s run off began to leak into his parking lot.
“This entire section over here was flooded with the drilling fluid,” he says while gesticulating towards his parking lot which the pipeline runs underneath.
“Fluid was everywhere,” he says remembering back to 2017 “they allegedly finished that up after about two years and of course they had to come back.” Larry asked to go by a pseudonym, fearing repercussions for speaking to the press, Energy Transfer has been working in his yard for more than four years on and off.
Just 20 minutes south of Philadelphia Larry lives in one of two quaint apartment complexes that have quietly been at war with one of the largest natural gas companies in America. Both Tunbridge Apartments and Glen Riddle Station Apartments sit perched at the bottom of a steep hill along Chester Creek in Delaware County.
Since 2017 different parts of this long hill have served as an easement controlled by Energy Transfer, Sunoco’s parent company and the developers for the Mariner East 2 natural gas pipeline. Since Energy Transfer gained control of this land via eminent domain , the two apartment complexes have sat in the midst of an active construction zone for nearly four years.
Last time I reported on Glen Riddle Station Apartments and the Mariner East pipeline, hundreds of residents were without clean drinking water because of a damaged water line on the easement. Several months later, both Tunbridge and Glen Riddle are mentioned by name as examples of environmental crimes committed by Energy Transfer in Pennsylvania by Attorney General Josh Shapiro. In October, Shapiro’s office charged Energy Transfer with 46 counts of environmental crimes related to the Mariner East 2.
Listed in these charges are multiple spills at the wetlands next to Tunbridge Apartments dating back to 2017. According to the Attorney General’s report, one month after Sunoco began drilling was “the first inadvertent return (of) 1,500 gallons of drilling solution into a nearby stream.” These inadvertent returns continued throughout 2017 dumping 1,800 more gallons of “inadvertent returns” into the surrounding environment, the complaint states.
On more than one occasion, construction needed to be stopped at Tunbridge Apartments.
The Attorney General’s report reads that after being shut down in 2017, both spills and construction continued. In April of 2018 150 gallons of fluid emerged on land at the Tunbridge Apartments, then a third party informed DEP of another inadvertent return totaling 8,000 gallons. Throughout April of 2018, more than seven inadvertent spills took place at Tunbridge and Glen Riddle.
“If I was financially able to simply get out of here, I would have done it two years ago,” says Larry. More than four years ago, he was a witness in a lawsuit against Energy Transfer and in 2021 these issues persist.
One major problem that has persisted with the Mariner East 2 Pipeline is a section of 12-inch pipe that was manufactured and installed in 1937. This pipe spilled about 70,000 gallons of gasoline in Chester County back in 1987, then again in 2015 there was an unspecified spill in Delaware County. According to internal Energy Transfer documents, that 12-inch pipe is still in use from Montello in Berks County to Point Breeze Philadelphia.
Pipeline watchdog and Delaware County resident Lora Snyder explains that “from Glenwood School to Tunbridge Apartments the 16-inch pipe is not operational, it’s still a ‘Franken-pipe’ hooked up to the 90-year-old 12-inch pipe.” She learned this information from a Middletown Township public meeting, which meeting notes confirm.
According to apartment residents and management, transparency has been an issue.. Owner of Glen Riddle Station Apartments, Steve Iacobucci notes that he’s gone weeks without speaking to Sunoco or Energy Transfer, despite workers being on sight at Glen Riddle while Grid interviewed him. In January of 2020, Glen Riddle submitted a right-to-know request asking for Middletown Township to make public its correspondence with Energy Transfer. In October of 2021, a judge ordered that Middletown Township must release these emails – but Township officials have refused.
In response to the court’s decision, Township Officials penned a letter citing anti-terrorism measures brought forth by 9-11 as reason to not disclose. The letter ends “the Township respectfully disagrees with the Court’s interpretation as to how … the RTKL should be applied under the facts presented by this case.”
Now Middletown Township is appealing the court’s decision in an attempt to avoid turning over their emails. “Sunoco and Middletown refuse to release the information, it continues to make us wonder why,” says Iacobucci.
Now after years of stress for residents of Delaware and Chester County, there is the looming hope of the Attorney General’s case against Energy Transfer. In his presentation of the criminal charges against Energy Transfer, Shapiro explained that “by charging Energy Transfer we will force them to contend directly with criminal charges in a criminal courtroom, here in Pennsylvania.”
Shapiro explained that the case against Energy Transfer is ongoing. However, there is a great deal of confusion about how this case is going to be handled.
When asked about the charges against Energy Transfer, Shapiro and his office continue to say that decisions about punishment would come from the PA Department of Environmental Protection. However, a spokesperson with the PA DEP told the Plain Dealer that “Penalties related to the charges from the AG would be a question for the Office of the Attorney General.”
Similarly, the PA Attorney General’s office was unsure about whether fines from criminal charges would go towards compensating victims, Director of Communications Jacklin Rhoads told Grid “I don’t believe it is possible for them to go to compensation because of the way the law is written but I can double check.”
Neither the DEP nor the Attorney General’s Office has taken action to prevent the pipeline from being completed.
The saga at Glen Riddle Station and Tunbridge Apartments account for less than 3% of the total criminal case brought forward against Energy Transfer. The hundreds of Delaware County and Chester County residents that have been fighting the Mariner East 2 pipeline are just a mere fraction of those affected by this project.
Spokespeople from Energy Transfer did not respond to requests for comment.