Sunoco Agrees to Pay $4 Million, Replace Animal Habitats in Pipeline Spill Settlement

Sunoco agreed in a settlement to pay $4 million to replace the animal habitats and shorelines that were damaged during a pipeline spill in Pennsylvania.

The spill happened in August 2020 at Marsh Creek State Park in Downington, Pennsylvania. Over 8,100 gallons of drilling fluid entered wetlands and tributaries' leaving it contaminated, the Associated Press reported.

According to the settlement, Sunoco Pipeline LP will restore the shoreline and replace damaged habitats for fish, turtles and birds. They must also change the location of their East 2 pipeline.

According to the settlement, Sunoco will also dredge a minimum of six inches of sediment from Rancher Cove located in the state park.

A 535-acre lake in the park was partially contaminated from the spill and 33 acres have been closed off to boating and fishing. The natural resources department said some of the money from Sunoco will be used to make improvements and create an accessible boat launch for the lake.

"Southeast Pennsylvania lost a significant recreational resource when the impacted area of the lake was closed due to the drilling fluid impacts, and many residents and community members expressed the need to restore those opportunities," said Cindy Adams, the Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Sunoco, Sign, Grandstand
As part of the settlement, Sunoco will dredge a minimum of six inches of sediment from Rancher Cove in Marsh Creek State Park. Above, a Sunoco sign is shown near the front stretch grandstand during a Pocono IndyCar 400 auto race on July 4, 2013, in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Matt Slocum/AP Photo

The natural resources department said it will use the $4 million from Sunoco for park rehabilitation and improvements that will include a visitor center and suppression of invasive species, among other things. The 1,784-acre park in Chester County hosts more than 1 million visitors each year.

The agreement will allow Sunoco to resume construction of the pipeline with a new route and a different construction method that will eliminate the use of drilling fluids.

"We are pleased that our permit modifications have been approved for the installation of our final pipeline segment in Chester County," said Energy Transfer spokesperson Lisa Coleman. "Once installed, construction of the full Mariner East pipeline will be complete, of which the majority is already in service."

The August 2020 spill at Marsh Creek was among a series of mishaps that has plagued Mariner East since construction began in 2017.

In October, Energy Transfer, the developer of the multi-billion-dollar pipeline project, was charged criminally after a grand jury concluded that it flouted Pennsylvania environmental laws and fouled waterways and residential water supplies across hundreds of miles. The company has yet to enter a plea in the case.

Energy Transfer has also been assessed more than $24 million in civil fines, including a $12.6 million fine in 2018 that was one of the largest ever imposed by the state. State regulators have periodically shut down construction.

Environmental activists and homeowners who assert their water has been fouled say that fines and shutdown orders have not forced Sunoco to clean up its act. They have been demanding the revocation of Mariner East's permits.

The pipeline system transports propane, ethane and butane from the enormous Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale gas fields in western Pennsylvania to a refinery processing center and export terminal near Philadelphia.

The state Departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources jointly announced the settlement.

Sunoco, Pennsylvania, Drilling, Contamination
The $4 million from Sunoco will be used for park rehabilitation and improvements. Above, homeowners Diane Salter, left, and David Mano, right, hold two jars with undrinkable clear and clouded well water caused by Sunoco's drilling for a natural gas liquids pipeline that contaminated their residential well October 6, 2017 in West Whiteland, Pennsylvania. Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images