Commissioners seek threat assessment on pipeline safety

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WEST CHESTER — Energy Transfer — the company managing the construction and operation of the controversial Mariner East II pipeline — might be selling a public image of safety, economic growth and such, but after a number of incidents, extreme secrecy, alleged deception and open questions whether the project is a clear and present danger to the people of Chester County, the county commissioners moved this week to study the true hazards and risks to county residents.

Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline, Kathi Cozzone and Terence Farrell have instructed the County’s Department of Emergency Services to oversee a comprehensive independent evaluation that identifies all the hazards and threats of Energy Transfer’s Mariner East pipeline, and that also reviews and validates Chester County’s emergency preparedness plans for those hazards and threats.

“This evaluation will be so much more than a Mariner East risk assessment of the type that is being undertaken by other local government entities in the region,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline.  “It will review the ‘science’ of Mariner East and model every possible public safety impact of the ME1 and ME2 pipelines, and then thoroughly determine Chester County’s emergency preparedness capabilities to meet those impacts.”

In short, the county needs to know what kind of threat is out there, since the company refuses to work with county officials.

“The basis of this evaluation is to ensure we go beyond our own research and data understanding, appointing experts who will provide us with a thorough analysis of all public safety threats linked to the Mariner East pipelines,” Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said.

“Energy Transfer’s lack of cooperation in public safety preparedness related to Mariner East means that we have to take our own steps to fully comprehend the hazards and risks, leading to the fastest and safest reactions to those risks on behalf of everyone who lives, works, goes to school or travels near the pipelines,” added Cozzone. “We know that because it will be thorough, the evaluation will take some time to complete, but we also know it will be worth the effort.”

Chester County’s Department of Emergency Services will take the lead on the independent pipeline safety evaluation, with input from other County departments that have pipeline interests including the Water Resources Authority, Conservation District, Health Department and Planning Commission.   Initial steps include a search for national or international experts who will provide a summary “statement of work” that will guide the request for proposal process.

“Each step of this independent evaluation process will take us closer to confirming that our Department of Emergency Services and the County’s first responders have the most comprehensive emergency preparedness plans in place should there be any threat to public safety caused by the Mariner East pipelines,” said Commissioner Terence Farrell.  “And while the evaluation progresses, we continue with many other actions that address the safety concerns of Mariner East, including our unprecedented lawsuit against Energy Transfer to stop construction of the company’s pipeline on County-owned property.”

Such a study will allow emergency response to be prepared, county officials said.

“We always welcome the opportunity to independently verify that we have the appropriate planning, organization, equipment, training and exercises in place to respond to any of the potential incidents that could be caused by Mariner East,” said Mike Murphy, the Director of Chester County’s Department of Emergency Services. “Conducting an evaluation like this is just one of the ways that we ensure our citizens receive the best possible emergency response.”

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