The builder of the contested Mariner East pipeline network announced Tuesday night that Pennsylvania had granted additional coronavirus waivers to complete work at several sites on the 350-mile-long project. By Wednesday morning, anti-pipeline activists responded with expressions of outrage.
But in the topsy-turvy world of the COVID-19 crisis, the announcement by Energy Transfer LP seems to have been premature.
- Pa. allows some Mariner East pipeline construction to continue despite the coronavirus shutdown
- Construction on Penn Medicine’s new $1.5 billion patient tower escapes the shutdown
- ‘Life-sustaining’ casino? Construction continued in South Philly despite Gov. Wolf’s coronavirus shutdown. At least two workers have tested positive.
The news release announcing the waivers mysteriously vanished Wednesday on Energy Transfer’s website. A few hours later, the Texas company said that the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, which grants waivers to Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus restrictions, had issued the approvals in error.
The agency “notified us Tuesday evening, April 7, that the latest approvals we received for additional construction activity in Pennsylvania were delivered in error and that our waiver requests remain under review by the commonwealth,” Lisa Coleman, an Energy Transfer spokesperson, said in an email. “We are working as quickly as possible to get clarification on the situation and will update you as quickly as possible.” The Mariner East project is being built by Sunoco Pipeline LP, a subsidiary.
The company did not identify locations where it wanted to resume work, but sources said the waiver request cited six sites, including several in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Energy Transfer, in its premature news release, said its appeal argued that work needed to be completed at several sites because unfinished they might present a safety and security risk.
It’s unclear what exactly happened in Harrisburg to recall the approval. Rachel Wrigley, a DCED spokesperson, acknowledged the agency issued a waiver on Monday, and pulled it back Tuesday, but did not provide an explanation why. Kurt Knaus, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance -- a pro-pipeline organized labor advocacy group that on Tuesday lauded the state’s waivers -- said he knew nothing about the state’s reversal.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman, a Chester County Democrat and a Mariner East opponent, said he also had no insight into DCED’s decision, but said he was “pleasantly surprised” that somebody in the Wolf administration apparently had second thoughts about green-lighting more work on the pipeline.
DCED’s nondecision does not mean that pipeline work has stopped.