Pennsylvania DEP to Consider Developing New Pipeline Policies and Procedures
Pennsylvania DEP has committed to considering enhanced policies and procedures relating to future pipeline development projects. This new commitment comes as part of a July 27, 2018, settlement agreement between Pennsylvania DEP and environmental groups challenging permits issued for construction of the Mariner East II Pipeline.
On July 27, 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) committed to reconsidering its policies and procedures related to pipeline permitting in Pennsylvania. The commitment comes as part of a settlement agreement between DEP and three environmental groups related to permits that DEP issued to Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. for construction of the Mariner East II Pipeline. The settlement agreement does not alter the permits issued to Sunoco and Sunoco is not a signatory to the settlement agreement.
The settlement agreement outlines DEP’s commitment to develop enhanced policies relating to future pipeline permitting, stakeholder involvement, and transparency. The settlement outlines DEP’s plan to convene a balanced group of stakeholders to develop additional policies regarding DEP’s review of pipeline permit applications. The stakeholder group will be tasked with developing “enhanced best practices” associated with erosion and sediment control permitting, the design and execution of horizontal direct drilling (HDD) operations and other operational measures associated with the construction and oversight of pipeline work.
The settlement agreement also requires DEP to provide online access to all non-privileged, non-confidential pipeline permit applications and supporting documents for all pipeline projects on or before February 1, 2019. DEP has already done so for the Mariner East II pipeline, as well as other pipeline projects such as the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline and the Penn East pipeline.
The settlement agreement does not directly impact work on the Mariner East II Pipeline, nor any other pipeline project that has received PADEP permits. The Mariner East II pipeline will transport natural gas liquids from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations to Southeastern Pennsylvania. Once completed, the pipeline will span the southern half of the Commonwealth, running more than 300 miles and terminating at the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex in Delaware County.
The settlement agreement does not require DEP to publish final documents outlining the new pipeline policies. The decision whether to publish revised policies rests with DEP. Per the terms of the settlement agreement, DEP’s decision whether or not to publish final documents will not be subject to challenge.
The settlement agreement terminates the appeal that the environmental groups had filed with the Environmental Hearing Board. The settlement agreement also requires DEP to pay the environmental groups $27,500 as partial reimbursement of their attorney fees and costs associated with challenging the permits.
Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr attorneys regularly assist pipeline companies in infrastructure development, dealing with the environmental permitting and litigation, public policy and public opinion issues which inevitably arise as these projects move forward. For more information relating to the firm’s Energy Transmission/Pipelines practice or for questions related to this alert, please contact the authors or the Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr attorney with whom you are regularly in contact.