PA Department of Environmental Protection grants pipeline permits

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WEST CORNWALL TOWNSHIP, LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. -- Pennsylvania grants two new permits in a controversial pipeline project.

The pipeline would carry natural gas liquids from southwestern to southeastern Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection raised deficiency issues with Sunoco Logistics and its permit application.

Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said “I am proud of the immense undertaking our staff took to hold this project accountable within the confines of state law and DEP’s role in this process over the last few years,” said McDonnell.

Sunoco Logistics Partners communications manager Jeff Shields released a statement saying "in a comprehensive process spanning more than 2 ½ years, one that included unprecedented public input, Sunoco Logistics provided detailed plans to minimize impacts to the environment, protected species and cultural resources. We are proud of those efforts and are committed to these important priorities.

Some people in Lebanon County still have their own concerns.

Barefoot Organics and landowner Phil Stober said "the finest non-irrigated farmland in the world is right here in Lebanon and Lancaster county and we're destroying it."

From chickens to vegetables, one will find what is to be expected on the farm at Barefoot Organics, except one thing Stober doesn't want to see is a pipeline nearby which would carry natural gas liquids across Pennsylvania.

"It's not just a personal passion I have, because I think it's wrong. From a business standpoint, if this pipeline ever had any kind of a leak, never mind an explosion, the word gets out, that there's an organic farm 800 feet off a pipeline, I'm out of business," Stober said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection approved land and water permits for Sunoco Logistics to move foreign with its Mariner East 2 pipeline project.

Clean Air Council executive director and chief counsel Joe Minott said "despite a year and a half of back and forth with Sunoco attempting to resolve a host of deficiencies and inconsistencies."

“This was a huge undertaking, holding five hearings during a 60-day comment period, reviewing permit applications and technical deficiencies for more than 20,000 hours, responding to 29,000 comments, and ensuring Sunoco addressed deficiencies identified in its initial applications," McDonell said.

"The Department of Environment Protection, to have them just roll over for these oil companies, something's not right, and we the little guy, we're the ones getting squashed and they're killing us one bug at a time," Stober said.

The environmental group Clean Air Council isn't giving up without a fight.

"We have already appealed the issuance of the permits before the Pennsylvania environmental hearing board, we have asked for a quick, supersedeas hearing which is essentially a requirement for a stay of the permits," Minott said.

Some say it's not only about protecting farmers like Stober, but all Pennsylvanians.

"We have to be able to rely on DEP to do its job, and if DEP will not do it's job, then we will turn to the courts and make sure that they make DEP do it's job," Minott said.

"The fight is a long slog and it's not over, because more people like us are beginning to pay attention," Stober said.

This is not the end of the process, as DEP, working in conjunction with the Public Utility Commission, will continue to hold the project accountable to regulatory standards that protect the environment and ensure the health, public safety, and welfare of local communities,” McDonnell said.

"The Mariner East 2 system will be built and operated to standards that meet or in many cases exceed federal pipeline safety regulations, using 75,000 tons of steel pipe, 100-percent made in America," Shields said.