The Ramifications of Renewing Mariner East’s Permits

In just a few weeks – February 12 – the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) construction permits for Sunoco’s Mariner East Pipeline will expire. Mariner East is a pipeline spanning the state of Pennsylvania built for the purpose of exporting ethane overseas for plastics production. In the last year, this pipeline has infamously racked up 48 criminal charges and one felony charge for environmental crimes. Some of its failures include damaging drinking water wells, polluting the Loyalhannah, Raystown, and Marsh Creek lakes, and causing shifting sinkholes that swallowed saplings and ruined public infrastructure. Many of these issues remain unaddressed.

Drilling Fluid Spilling into Marsh Creek Lake

Inadequate construction permits, specifically Erosion and Sedimentation (E&S) permits, can cause a lot of harm. Recently, an E&S pipeline permit that had accrued multiple road-flooding complaints from concerned residents likely led to a tragic and fatal accident after said flooding froze overnight. In the past few years, Mountain Watershed Association has become well-acquainted with the issues caused by Mariner East’s E&S permit. One resident we work with closely agreed to let the Mariner East cross his property, only to lose the quality of his well water and have a bog form permanently where there once was grass.

The DEP will be in a unique position when the time comes for them to consider renewing the Mariner East’s construction permits. Since Sunoco wants its permits renewed, the DEP has leverage to hold it accountable for its negative environmental impact. The DEP has a chance to ensure that Mariner East conducts geological investigations into its sinkholes, cleans up Marsh Creek Lake, and provides clean water to all those whose wells were corrupted. Otherwise, as per usual, homeowners, conservation organizations and taxpayer dollars would be left to clean up after the company.

In fact, the law suggests that the DEP should not renew these construction permits until all these issues are settled. Under section 60 of the Clean Streams Act, 

“The department shall not issue any permit or amend if it finds…that…

1)    The applicant has failed and continues to fail to comply with any provision of law

2)    The applicant has shown a lack of ability or intention to comply with such laws as indicated by past or continuing violations.”

Unfortunately, Mariner East has failed to uphold both these requirements. Until they do, construction should be delayed.

One of many instances of a resident’s well water becoming undrinkable

At this time, Mariner East has racked up 120+ notices of violation for damage to streams, wells, and more. This is in addition to the criminal charges and class-action cases from Energy Transfer investors and residents with contaminated wells. The DEP can choose not to renew the permits until Sunoco cleans up all areas of Pennsylvania it has degraded. Until January 24, we can submit comments to the DEP asking them to do just that.

Those making comments can ask for a cleanup of Marsh Creek Lake, a restoration of clean water to contaminated wells, and for a public hearing. The pipeline project has used Pennsylvania’s shale gas reserves not for public utility, but for the purpose of overseas plastic production. This pipeline has caused PA residents serious trouble while leaving little to no benefits. Those harms should be rectified before any further construction permits are issued.

Comments to DEP can be sent to this email address:

If you would like to send a pre-written comment, please use this link: 

If you have any other questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to MWA’s Community Organizer James Cato at