Skip to content

Sunoco Mariner East Pipeline is a “Recipe for Disaster”

June 2, 2014

Mariner East Pipeline: Sunoco Logistics plans to pipe high-pressure, volatile natural gas liquids (NGLs) from Pennsylvania’s fracking sacrifice zones to export from the Delaware River. Source: Observer-Reporter.

Across Pennsylvania, resistance is growing to Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East Pipeline from multiple perspectives:

  • Engineers and industry insiders assess the explosion risk from the re-purposed pipeline as a “recipe for disaster”.
  • Landowners and municipalities oppose Sunoco’s twisted attempt to use “public utility” status to evade local zoning regulations and to use eminent domain for land grabs,.
  • Environmental groups are disturbed by the climate impacts of the pipeline, which would export more than 50% of its contents (volatile fracked gas liquids, ethane and propane) overseas.
  • Community and environmental groups oppose the large-scale cumulative impacts on water, air and land from the fracking, refinery processing, pump stations, storage and export facilities which are all part of the Mariner East project.
  • Public health and human rights advocates are angered by the air pollution and drinking water contamination in communities impacted by fracking from cradle to grave, exemplified by the massive toxic smoke released by the MarkWest refinery in Houston, Pennsylvania, which is the western starting point of the Mariner East pipeline.

Increased Coordination

Of course, the above groups are not separate and are increasingly coordinating efforts. In particular, the June 9th PUC deadline for public comment on Sunoco Logistics’ application to evade local zoning laws by declaring itself a “public utility” has led to increased unity among the opponents. Sample letters for you to customize, print and mail are posted here in an action alert by Protecting Our Waters boosting this effort.

Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) is among the groups which have stepped in to legally intervene in Sunoco’s attempt to be declared a public utility:

“In late March, Sunoco Logistics, L.P. submitted petitions to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) in 31 different townships, some of which are in the Delaware Watershed, along its proposed Mariner East Pipeline requesting that it be granted status as a public utility corporation. If the PUC says yes to that status change, Sunoco would be EXEMPT from local zoning for the additions of pump and valve stations.

“Sunoco’s Petitions to PUC state the Project will require the construction of 17 valve stations in 15 different municipalities, and the construction of 18 pumping stations in 18 different municipalities. DRN has filed comments and a motion to intervene with the PUC in order to challenge this dangerous request. In response to multiple interventions and objects Sunoco has filed a motion to submit an amended Petition for Exemption.  An interesting development demonstrating the power of the community attention on this important issue.”

Meanwhile, new blogs and websites opposing the Mariner East project have popped up, an indication of increasingly organized resistance from Westmoreland County in western PA and Dauphin County in central PA to Chester County in southeastern PA. The rhetoric varies from the straightforward “Just the Facts, Please” and the highly focused Chester County Community Coalition to Chester County Ramblings, which compared Sunoco Logistics pipelines to cockroaches, in their post titled “Sleazy Sunoco,” on April 30th, 2014. This argument embodies a property rights perspective:

I have learned from Chester County residents who already have the older version of the pipeline a couple of interesting things: I thought (mistakenly and incorrectly) that if Sunoco used someone’s property that they paid rent annually to the property owner. I am told they don’t. I also wondered what happened when real estate changed hands. Apparently Sunoco doesn’t pay homeowners who inherit them in their backyards anything.

So basically, letting Sunoco in is like allowing cockroaches?

An earlier post on the same site, “Will it be eminent domain and pipelines, Sunoco?” challenges Sunoco’s attempt to claim eminent domain for its pipelines. The Mariner East pipelines would  benefit only Sunoco execs and investors, since the pipelines are carrying NGLs — natural gas liquids, a product of intensive fracking in western Pennsylvania — to be exported to Norway, jacking up the greenhouse gas footprint sky-high, pun intended.

Pump Stations Ignite Protest

Residents in West Goshen, in Chester County, Pennsylvania, are “fighting mad, and battling Sunoco Logistics and its plan for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project,” reports Jeremy Gerrard of the Daily Local News:

Staff photo by Tom Kelly IV Hundreds of people pack the West Goshen Township Building to discuss the Sunoco pipeline at a meeting on Thursday, March 27, 2014. Source:

W. Goshen residents upset with gas pump station proposal By Jeremy Gerrard, Daily Local News POSTED: 03/30/14, 7:47 PM EDT |

WEST GOSHEN — Township residents are organizing against the construction of a proposed natural gas pump station, voicing outrage over possible health and safety issues from the facility.

“This doesn’t just affect West Goshen, but every community from here to Marcus Hook,” resident Tom Casey said.

Sunoco is requesting a variance from West Goshen at an April 3, 2014 zoning meeting to build a pipeline pump station with 34 foot ‘flare stack’ in a neighborhood at Boot Road and Route 202. Sunoco has similar requests in 31 municipalities across Pa as it transitions a cross-state petroleum pipeline to ethane, butane, propane liquid gas use.

Mariner East Pipeline “Recipe for Disaster”

Source: Independent Reporting on Marcellus-Shale.Us

So, aside from high-impact fracking; the toxic MarkWest refinery in Western Pennsylvania; Sunoco attempting to use  eminent domain to legalize stealing land from regular people — including farmers — along the way; polluting pump stations; and increased global warming, what else is not to like about the Mariner East pipeline?

Danger, that’s what. Protecting Our Waters already pointed out the danger of explosion here, here, and here, but even we had missed a key technical reason why this project should not go forward.

An authoritative source close to the project emailed me privately to emphasize a little-known aspect of the pipeline which he says makes it a “recipe for disaster”:

Mariner East will be transporting ethane and propane exclusively in the liquid state. The operating pressures required to transport liquid propane and ethane are significantly higher than the pressures used to transport refined products, like gasoline and diesel fuel. This is because gasoline/diesel are liquids at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, while ethane/propane exist as gases. The only way to keep ethane and propane in the liquid state is to keep them under high pressure.
Why does this matter? Sunoco claims to be reusing existing pipelines that previously carried refined products. This means that pipe in Mariner East will be seeing 150-200% more pressure than it has ever seen before. I’m sure that the pipe sections are rated for the increased operating pressures, but these ratings are given by pipe manufacturers for new pipe, not pipe that has been sitting in the ground for decades. When you look at the heavily populated areas that Sunoco is planning to run Mariner East through, this seems like the recipe for disaster.
If you live in Pennsylvania or Delaware, now’s a good time to start writing and calling your state and local legislators to get them on board to stop this project, which turns our communities into sacrifice zones for exports to Norway.
And don’t forget– if you’re reading this before June 7th, use this Action Alert to write the PUC yourself.





  1. June 2, 2014 9:31 pm

    The Keystone XL pipeline would require heating to move tarsands sludge; Mariner East would require cooling of ethane and butane. Heating or cooling of fossil fuel substances to get them to move is one more complication, and complexity increases the threat of harm.

    It is heartening to read about residents across PA moblizing to stop pipelines. Where can one link into and support organized pockets of resistance (traps for the cockroaches?) across the state?

  2. June 3, 2014 8:52 am

    Sunoco Logistics is banking on this pipeline and its spurs,,, they’re applying for Public Utility status. They need to export at least half of the liquified natural gas products flowing through it to make a profit. Shareholders – not the public – will benefit, yet the public incurs the risk. Selling a little propane to the locals on the side does not a public utility make!

    Find out the very latest developments via the 3C Coalition (Chester County Community Coalition):

    and on facebook here:

    Please contact your legislators today! here’s a sample letter to use or personalize:

    It’s GO TIME!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: