Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance
Mariner East pipeline construction was halted due to the Wuhan COVID virus but now a waiver has been granted to proceed again toward finishing the project.
The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development late Wednesday granted waiver requests that will allow construction work to resume on the Mariner East pipeline network. Work originally was halted March 19 after Gov. Tom Wolf issued his Emergency Order, which shut down several sectors of Pennsylvania’s economy, but provided a process for affected businesses to seek a waiver for essential operations. Some 10,000 other companies also applied for the waiver.
Included in the approvals are a mix of partially completed horizontal directional drills, road bores and open excavation sites across the commonwealth. Work like this is critical. An immediate cessation of work like this could lead to potential adverse impacts, or create disruptions such as road closures or pose other environmental risks.
Those who oppose the restart don’t understand that stopping horizontal directional drills that are at significantly advanced stages could increase the risk that those boreholes will collapse, creating adverse impacts to the environment and community safety. Road bores that are in process pose dangers to the surface if they are not completed. Deep, open trench excavation sites in publicly accessible areas must be monitored and maintained.
All of this work is related to public health and environmental safety. The pipeline builder currently has no remaining waiver requests pending, and work remains shut down at all other construction sites.
When the state issued its emergency order, it provided a process to review work that may be essential. The state granted these waivers for Mariner East because it recognizes cessation would cause an even greater risk to public health and the environment.
With the state economy in a meltdown, enabling some of our high-skilled laborers to get back to work safely is a good thing. Their health and safety is paramount, with guidelines in place to ensure employees take precautions as prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Pipeline opponents who have used this pandemic to halt work fail to realize the gravity of that action, given how complete cessation on a large infrastructure project like this would cause even greater risk. If they truly care about public health and the environment, then they should support this waiver, which has the full force of law behind it, just as it is with every other component of this legally permitted project.