It’s Thursday, October 7, and Pennsylvania is holding a pipeline company criminally accountable for pollution. 

 

A statewide grand jury investigation came to a dramatic conclusion on Tuesday, as Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced 48 criminal charges against the oil and gas pipeline company Energy Transfer. In building its Mariner East natural gas pipeline across the state of Pennsylvania, Shapiro said, Energy Transfer illegally spilled drilling fluid at 22 sites in 11 different counties.

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“Hundreds of thousands of gallons of contaminated drilling fluid found its way out of the drill path into our waterways and into some Pennsylvania homes,” Shapiro said in an announcement, adding that Energy Transfer had repeatedly failed to report the spills to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. The grand jury investigation also found that the company had used “unapproved additives” in its drilling fluid while building the pipeline, posing additional health risks to communities along its path.

The Mariner East pipeline is one of the most penalized projects in Pennsylvania state history. Since the project began in 2017, the Department of Environmental Protection has fined Energy Transfer more than $20 million for 120 violations along the pipeline’s 350-mile route. 

Environmental advocates and state policymakers lauded the attorney general’s announcement, hoping that it could spur the governor’s office to shut down the pipeline altogether. “It is time for Governor Tom Wolf to immediately halt all permitting for Mariner East,” tweeted Pennsylvania State Representative Dianne Herrin.

Joseph Winters

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