Another Sinkhole Opens Along Controversial Mariner East Pipeline Route
Sunoco's controversial Mariner East pipeline project in Pennsylvania is beginning 2019 on unstable ground, literally. A sinkhole opened in the suburban development of Lisa Drive in Chester County Sunday, exposing the old Mariner East 1 pipeline built in the 1930s.
Sunoco, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, repurposed the older pipeline to carry up to 70,000 barrels of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region to a refinery in Marcus Hook each day. It was shut off for two months in 2018 when sinkholes developed in the same development, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
John Mattia lives 60 feet from the new sinkhole, which is about five feet wide by 10 feet deep.
"I find it alarming to say the least that in an area that they say they already remediated there is a new sinkhole," Mattia told StateImpact Pennsylvania. "To have this happen again and to expose the pipeline completely, I find despicable."
John Mattia's house is about 60 feet from a new sinkhole that exposed a section of the Mariner East 1 pipeline. He… https://t.co/1Q8U51Ueh8— WITF news (@WITF news)1548110707.0
Sunoco has said that there was "no impact" to the pipeline from the sinkhole. However, it agreed to shut down the pipeline and purge it of natural gas while the subsidence is filled in. The Public Utilities Commission's (PUC) Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement said Sunday the pipeline would not be able to restart without its approval.
The incident comes four months after another Energy Transfer Partners pipeline exploded in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, possibly because of a landslide.
"This needs to be shut down immediately for the safety of the public. The pipeline explosion that happened in Beaver County in September 2018 was also due to ground subsidence. This area has not been stabilized for over 15 months at this point," Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety wrote in a Facebook post announcing the incident.
Del Chesco United for Pipeline Safety spokesman Eric Friedman told The Philadelphia Inquirer that locals had long had concerns about how the geology of the area would accommodate pipelines.
"It's riddled with caves of various sizes," Friedman said. "It's unstable. The area has problems with roads sinking.... This is an area, frankly, that was recognized by citizens' groups as a geologically problematic area.... It seems like everyone knew this was going to be a problem except Sunoco and the PUC."
Sunoco and Energy Transfer Partners have faced criticism for their handling of the Mariner East pipeline project, which includes Mariner East 1, Mariner East 2, completed in late 2018 and Mariner East 2X, to be completed at the end of 2019.
In December of 2018, Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan opened a criminal investigation into the Mariner East pipeline over the sinkholes, water contamination and bullying of local community members.
State Senator Andy Dinniman told the opportunity to call for an investigation, casting doubt on the PUC decision to restart the pipeline last year after the first sinkholes appeared.
"What we'd have to do with the legislature or the executive branch of government is have a total review of this pipeline and to have that review done by an independent authority who has nothing to do with either Sunoco or the Public Utility Commission," Dinniman said, as ABC 6 reported.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.