WEST CHESTER (September 14, 2017) – State Senator Andy Dinniman today expressed concern with the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP’s) interim response requiring up to an additional 30 days, until October 11, 2017, to issue a final response to his Right-to-Know Request to obtain a list of private groundwater wells located near the path of Sunoco Pipeline’s Mariner East II project in Chester County.
“While DEP continues to drag its feet on releasing what amounts to public information anyway, residents and homeowners in Chester County and throughout the Commonwealth continue to have their health, water, and property rights potentially threatened by this and other pipeline drilling projects,” Dinniman said. “The bottom line is I have an obligation to protect and stand up for my constituents and I will continue to do so, especially if DEP won’t and regardless of whether we have a Democrat or Republican administration.”
The request, filed with the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), called for the department to provide its “list of private groundwater wells in Chester County identified by Sunoco Pipeline L.P. within 450 feet of all horizontal directional drilling alignments, including parcels that would be adjacent to, but not directly crossed by the Pennsylvania Pipeline Project and referenced in the revised Water Supply Assessment, Preparedness, Prevention and Contingency Plan.”
Dinniman, who serves on the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said he needs to access that information to ensure that DEP is doing its due diligence in properly ensuring that residents located near and potentially impacted by the pipeline route are notified, as required under the revised water permit. He added that after multiple residential wells in Chester County were directly and irreparably impacted by Sunoco’s Mariner II East drilling in mid-June, several residents indicated that they had never been notified that the drilling was even taking place.
Dinniman initially requested that information from DEP in a July 14 letter. DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell responded on July 19 stating that while, “…the company has shared information on the private water supplies with DEP. This list is not publicly available, as it contains information of private residents, and cannot be shared for confidentiality reasons.”
DEP’s decision amounts to “a dangerous position for a state department to take” and argued that “to delay this information from the public only discourages future projects from ensuring information submitted to Commonwealth agencies is accurate and demonstrates that state departments will side with the companies when mistakes are made,” Dinniman continued.
He also said that DEP’s delay in releasing the information only heightened growing concerns about its ability or willingness to serve the people over corporate interests.
“What is most alarming and astounding is DEP using its initial excuse of ‘confidentiality’ to protect Sunoco and protect itself, instead of handing over information that shows that they’re protecting the people,” he said. “This is a clear-cut case of government bureaucracy at its worst – unelected state officials putting themselves and their corporate interests before the very citizens, families, and communities they’re supposed to be serving.”
Finally, Dinniman noted that the longer it takes for DEP to release this information, the more likely it is that residents nearby the pipeline’s path will again face impacts to their well service without adequate notification that drilling activities are underway.
“In the meantime, my constituents are going to find themselves in the exact same position they were in earlier this summer – with potentially harmful pipeline drilling activities resuming near their homes and wells without any verification whatsoever that Sunoco is notifying them in a timely manner from the government agency charged with protecting their environmental rights,” Dinniman said. “You have to wonder if DEP learned anything at all from its first set of failures, or if it is even committed to ‘government that works’ in the interest of the people.”