Judge halts Sunoco pipeline work in eastern Pennsylvania

Energy Associated Press

A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota, January, 2017. (REUTERS/Terray Sylvester)

An administrative law judge has temporarily halted work on part of a natural gas pipeline in eastern Pennsylvania.

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The judge wants the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to hear and rule on whether Sunoco violated a 2015 settlement agreement with West Goshen Township. The township in Chester County contends Sunoco jumped the gun on some construction earlier this month and also disputes Sunoco's decision to move a valve control station.

Sunoco says it moved the station for safety reasons and says it looks forward to convincing the utility commission that it has otherwise complied with the agreement.

The company's $2.5 billion, 350-mile (563-kilometer) Mariner East 2 pipeline across southern Pennsylvania will carry propane, butane and ethane from the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation to an export terminal near Philadelphia.

The pipeline project has been protested by Pennsylvanians who blame it for fouling their well water or spilling a clay lubricant at various sites.

On Monday, a spokesman for Sunoco confirmed the company has changed subcontractors for a stretch of the project in Blair, Huntingdon and Juniata counties.

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Jeff Shield told WJAC-TV that the company no longer contracts with Ohio-based Union Pipeline for that section. Instead, Wisconsin-based Michels Corporation will act as the general contractor.

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He would not comment as to why the change was made. Union Pipeline also declined to say why they will no longer work on the pipeline.

The change comes after the state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed the project's four latest violations, in Delaware and Cumberland counties.

The DEP also confirmed Monday three incidents in Blair County that involve thousands of gallons of drilling fluid, and a separate incident in Huntingdon County.

The mixture of water and bentonite clay isn't expected to have long-term effects on the environment, the department said, and complies with drinking water regulations.

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