The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has suspended construction permits associated with Sunoco Pipeline's construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.
For now, Pennsylvania's order will block all construction on the $2.5 billion project until Sunoco corrects violations, addresses complaints about fouled private water wells and submits a plan for avoiding future problems.
According to the DEP, the leak has stopped and was repaired.
The pipeline, costing more than $2.5 billion, is created to carry propane, ethane, and butane some 350 miles from the Marcellus Shale of southwest Pennsylvania to an export terminal at Marcus Hook near Philadelphia.
In November, Sunoco delayed the projected completion of the line until the second quarter of 2018.
Pennsylvania environmental officials have ordered Sunoco to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline across the southern part of the state, including northern York County, citing a series of spills and other "egregious and willful violations" of state law.
"Until Sunoco can demonstrate that the permit conditions can and will be followed, DEP has no alternative but to suspend the permits", DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement. "The department is going to hold Sunoco and every other permittee out there accountable for making sure that they're meeting those permit requirements". State regulators had discovered that Sunoco was drilling under streams without permits when a spill contaminated a high-quality creek in Berks County, Pennsylvania, the order notes-and then found unpermitted construction at over a half-dozen other locations along the pipeline's route. Knaus says all stakeholders, including Sunoco, want the pipeline to be developed safely.
Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields told the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper the company received the suspension order Wednesday morning and meant to comply with the conditions.
In October, three environmental groups - Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and the Mountain Watershed Association - filed a motion for summary judgment with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board to revoke certain permits for the pipeline on the grounds that the pipeline would violate state law by crossing "exceptional value" wetlands unnecessarily, that Sunoco violated anti-degradation law for those wetlands, and that the DEP issued permits without receiving a storm water management plan from Sunoco. The company also expressed its "dedication to preserving and protecting the environment in which we conduct our work".
"We intend to expeditiously submit these reports and we are confident that we will be reauthorized to commence work on this project promptly", said Shields in a statement. "I also thank the governor for listening to the concerns of our citizens and making public safety a priority".
The company has said it is trying to abide by the DEP permitting rules and regulations.
Energy Transfer Partners had hired TigerSwan, a private security firm, to conduct "surveillance, monitoring, social media engagement, and counter-intelligence" on the Mariner East 2 protesters, as it did with the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota in 2016.
"Today's announcement is a step in the right direction, but the only responsible course of action for Governor Wolf is to stop the Mariner East 2 altogether", Sam Rubin of Food & Water Watch said Wednesday. What we really need is a full and permanent halt to construction and a full, transparent, and public assessment of the risks associated with the Mariner East 2. "Sunoco and DEP should work expeditiously to resolve this matter so safe construction can resume and this vital project can get back on track".
"This project remains critically important for our commonwealth", he said.