The Pitt News

Editorial: No Mariner East II pipeline, period.

Map of the U.S. showing Sunoco Logistics' pipelines and terminals | TNS

Map of the U.S. showing Sunoco Logistics' pipelines and terminals | TNS

Map of the U.S. showing Sunoco Logistics' pipelines and terminals | TNS

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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Keystone XL, Dakota Access, Sabah Trail — and now the Mariner East II. It seems there’s no shortage of pipelines popping up and swiftly garnering opposition throughout the United States. Yet another in the list, the ME2 pipeline is intended to expand upon the already-constructed Mariner East I line in Southern Pennsylvania. ME2 received approval Monday from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to begin construction.

The pipeline is projected to run through 17 counties in-state and cross through about 270 properties in various townships, including Sewickley, Murrysville, Rostraver and Jeannette.

Activists are working quickly to oppose the pipeline for its oversights in the approval process by the DEP but, more importantly, for the grave environmental concerns it, and all pipelines, present.

The ME2, like many pipelines, can disrupt nature, repossess land from residents and promote further fossil fuel dependency — all issues with detrimental consequences for our state, community and planet. Regardless of the ways the DEP chooses to regulate permits and restrictions for the pipeline, the truth is, it shouldn’t be built at all.

Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, the company building ME2, originally submitted its application in June 2016, but “technical deficiencies” — including vagueness as well as incomplete and ineffectively addressed sections — plagued the construction timeline the past seven months. Opponents of the line fear the DEP may have approved the applications prematurely and without proper thoroughness in order to meet Sunoco’s deadlines to begin construction by “late winter or early spring.” A heinous act, if true, but not more disturbing than the damage the pipeline would do to rural land across the state and the message it would send about Pennsylvania’s stance on pipelines, climate change and our country’s addiction to non-renewable resources.

Building pipelines makes transportation of fossil fuels easier, quicker and cheaper, thus inspiring companies like Sunoco to drill and sell more and more. But as our levels of dependency on oil combined with estimates of what’s left in the earth come to a head in the next few decades, investing in infrastructure to increase our fossil fuel consumption is both unwise and irresponsible.

Over the course of five public hearings in Aug. 2016, the DEP listened to hundreds of community members and received more than 29,000 online comments in response to Sonoco’s application. The reaction was split with many condemning and many praising the plans for the line. Arguments in favor of ME2 emphasize the jobs it will provide and the economic benefits of a faster and more efficient transportation system for oil and natural gas.

The pipeline isn’t publically funded, meaning all the money for building it comes from Sunoco themselves. So that money can’t be diverted for state investments in different types of energy or to create more jobs. But there are other opportunities for creating jobs that don’t endanger the safety and integrity of local communities or our environment. And instead of backing pipelines, Pennsylvania should be seeking out opportunities to support companies investing in renewable energy sources to promote sustainability and environmental responsibility.

Many activists are calling for the Department to reconsider public opinions and issue a halt on the construction of the pipeline until more regulations can be made, but this isn’t enough. It stops nothing, it only halts the construction for the time being and allows Pennsylvania to cop out on committing to the climate and its future. The DEP, as the state’s premier protector of our environment, should recognize the pipeline for what it is — a move that encourages increased extraction and use of fossil fuels while also damaging our land, all adverse effects that far outweigh any potential economic gain.

It seems Pennsylvania has learned little from the time of pipelines past, a fact beyond disappointing. But we now have the opportunity to change. Take a stand against Mariner East II and thus a stance for our environment and our people.

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Editorial: No Mariner East II pipeline, period.