For Immediate Release
WEST CHESTER, PA - Local residents and environmental leaders rallied at the Chester County Courthouse this afternoon to demand a full and complete stop to construction of the Sunoco Logistics Mariner East pipelines. The event was the largest expression of opposition in the local campaign against the project, with speakers calling on Governor Tom Wolf to permanently halt the project immediately.
Residents cite the record of spills, water contamination, and sinkholes as proof that Sunoco cannot be trusted to take public safety seriously. The non-operational pipeline Mariner East 2 was damaged last week during construction, due to faulty information provided by Sunoco.
The pipeline would pose a significant threat to public safety if it became operational. The 350-mile pipeline would carry highly volatile liquid ethane, which would be catastrophic in the event of a leak or explosion. The path of the Mariner East 2 runs close to schools, homes and other occupied structures. The material will be shipped overseas to make plastic.
“Communities are suffering at the hands of a reckless corporation that is sending the ethane overseas to make plastic,” said Sam Rubin, an organizer with Food & Water Watch. “Enough is enough. Governor Wolf: the line is drawn and you have a choice to make. Are you going to stop this pipeline?
“What is the risk being imposed upon us? What if there is a leak or explosion on the pipeline in our densely populated community? What if there’s an accident next to a nursing home, or hospital, in a neighborhood, or by a school? How will we be notified, how do we evacuate, how do we protect the most vulnerable among us?,” asked Eve Miari, Advocacy Coordinator with Clean Air Council. “Two years later, we are still asking these questions, and there are still answers.”
Local leaders of the campaign against the pipeline spoke forcefully about the array of problems that have been created by the pipeline construction. “I stand here today as a mother, a property owner, a community member, and an earth scientist who has become an unlikely pipeline activist,” said Virginia Kerslake, resident of West Whiteland Township in Chester County. “I had believed Sunoco when they said they would build and operate these three pipelines safely. But the more I learned the reality of Mariner East and Sunoco’s abysmal history of leaks and accidents, the more I realized the danger to our community is very real.”
"We gave the governor a choice: Stand with the people of Pennsylvania, and their health, safety, and welfare, or choose Energy Transfer Partners and their profits. To date, Governor Wolf has continued to choose a rogue industry and a rogue operator over our communities,” said Bibianna Dussling, a resident of Middletown Township and a leader with the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety. “In the absence of the Governor, the Commonwealth, acting on our behalf and safeguarding public safety versus private profits, we must step in. We cannot wait any longer for them to do their jobs. They have left it for us to do it for them."
"Pipeline and fracking companies devastate people’s lives in countless ways. Much of the focus is on the physical problems caused by contaminated water and air. The presence of pipelines and fracking wells also exacts a toll on mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial health as well,” said Ellen Gerhart, a Huntingdon County landowner who has faced years of harassment at the hands of Sunoco as they push to construct their pipeline on her property, which became the site of the Camp White Pine protest site.
These Pennsylvania activists were also joined by national figures concerned about the oil and gas industry’s disregard for our health and stability. "From beginning to end, the Mariner East 2 pipeline is a disaster for people, a livable planet, and the fight against plastics pollution," said Food & Water Executive Director Wenonah Hauter, who spoke at the rally. "This project drives more fracking in western Pennsylvania, and it places many thousands of people along the pipeline route at risk-- all to enrich Energy Transfer Partners and the chemical giant Ineos. Governor Wolf must stop this outrageous scheme from going any further."
New York author and activist Sandra Steingraber also spoke to the crowd in West Chester. "Communities along the path of the Mariner East pipeline are rising up as part of a growing national movement of communities who refuse to serve as human sacrifices for fossil fuel infrastructure projects that are all risk and no reward for those who live in the blast zone," she said. "The air pollution, water contamination, and public health risks that accompany these misbegotten projects mean that all living downstream from dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure. My community in the Finger Lakes of New York stands in solidarity with Chester County as we fight to protect our families from menace of fracking and its many toxic, explosive tentacles."
Food & Water Watch has released several reports exposing the pipeline and the European chemical giant Ineos, which has built a fleet of ships to carry the gas liquids from the pipeline to its petrochemical plants in Scotland.
A decision from the state's Public Utilities Commission about re-starting construction on the pipeline could come as soon as this week. The message from organizers was that the real power lies with Governor Wolf, who must make the PUC’s temporary halt permanent.