Wolf’s conduct on the pipeline is impossible to explain

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

It runs like a scar across Chester County, a tear far more than a flesh wound, winding across the middle of the county as a reminder that the rich and the powerful can always buy off government at the expense of the people.

It is, of course, the Mariner East II pipeline. It is appears to be back under construction because of a waiver from the Wolf Administration deeming it “life sustaining,” but strangely, no one has been able to confirm the existence of a waiver.

Whatever is the truth — something in short supply in the tangled tale of this white elephant project — work resumed in the county on the project by the middle of last week. I know, because I saw it in person.

How anyone in their right mind — unless compromised by money — can see this project as “life-sustaining” or “productive” or “sane” needs to have their head examined.

This poorly designed, high-pressure mess of a pipeline is years behind schedule because Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners is the kind of company that could mess up a one-car funeral. It is allegedly designed to carry some sort of petroleum product intended to make plastics to Marcus Hook, where it will go on a large ship and be transported to Europe.

Of course, none of that makes any sense, economically, environmentally, or basically on any level.

Let’s start with fracking. Sure, it seems to cause groundwater contamination and there are increasing concerns that it may be releasing radon gas into the atmosphere (radon is very common in the rock strata from Pennsylvania, into New Jersey and southern New York State).

So, even if fracking was wildly profitable, it would be problematic at best. But, it’s not.

With oil under $25 a barrel, every barrel that comes out of the ground is a big money loser — estimates suggest fracking doesn’t break even unless oil is around $50 a barrel. In short, there’s an oil glut right now. No one wants or needs the product coming out of the fracking sites in Pennsylvania.

So of course, in this time of crisis, the frackers have their hands out for multi-billion dollar bailouts from the federal government — this after getting millions, if not billions of tax breaks from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. That’s money out of our pockets — away from our schools, roads and police and lining the pockets of lawless fat cats at Energy Transfer.

But the final insult: insisting that this dangerous boondoggle of a product is somehow essential. It doesn’t reach the standard of even mildly advisable, so it obviously isn’t anything like essential or life sustaining.

To be sure, it is crappy for the folks living next to the project — 12-hours a day, six days a week with noise and dust, while they are trapped in their homes. Often the kids can’t even go outside and blow off some steam, it’s so bad. And God forbid — what if there is another accident — one more serious than previously, but always a possibility with wildly flammable substances under high pressure, with everyone under Stay At Home orders. What would the causality count look like?

Seems like a textbook definition of “non-essential” and “life extinguishing.”

Which brings us back to why.

Is the Wolf Administration this incompetent?

Beyond this and the mishandling of the state liquor stores, Wolf has largely done a solid job in this crisis. Not as good as the best, but far better than many other governors who seem bent on killing their populations and then hiding the data (yes, I’m looking at you, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis). Wolf earns a solid C grade.

It’s clear that there is a seed of corruption in both political parties when it comes to this project — Energy Transfer Partners has thrown a ton of money around (ironically, some of that money came from tax breaks), and we know in some cases it got moved to various political and governmental sources through unions and other fronts.

That’s why, at last count, I’m told there are four separate criminal investigations underway into how this all went down.

Something is really, really wrong here. I’m kind of afraid that were really not going to like the answers when we find out this happened.


While Wolf has done OK, he’s made a couple of really bad decisions — his decision to close the liquor stores likely had a lot to do with Delaware’s decision to close its borders, with too many Pennsylvania knuckleheads running down to Total Wine. And we’re seeing similar issues with Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio and New York — booze seeking Pennsylvanians helping to spread COVID-19 — so this might have been pretty foolish.

And yet, Wolf is Albert Einstein compared to the President of the United States — who has been both stupid, lazy and immoral in dealing with COVID-19.

At this point, you almost have to wonder if the Trump Administration is trying to screw this up — from the slow roll out of emergency funds (small business loans, boosted unemployment) to literally playing politics with things like ventilators.

The lack of leadership, petty behavior and sheer stupidity not just from President Donald Trump, but many Republican elected officials (the lunatic proposal to reopen many businesses from Pa. legislative Republicans is complete idiocy), boggles the mind. Once this pandemic passes — and who knows when that will be — this governance malpractice will cause massive, massive economic damage. My guess is the second half of 2020 will make 2008 positively rosy.

A reckoning is coming and it won’t be pretty.


I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all of the high school seniors who find themselves losing the last third of their school year, proms and of course, graduation. Not to mention how the disruption is making college applications and acceptance complicated at best.

It’s a big hit to the kids — and their families. A little less than a year ago, my twins graduated from Unionville High School. It was such a time of pride and joy for our family. It is gutting that so many of our local families will not get to enjoy this special moment.

I don’t question the decision to close schools for the rest of the year — COVID-19 is dangerous, by the time you read this, 500 Pennsylvanians will have died from the virus. But for these kids — and their college counterparts — it’s heartbreaking.

Let’s keep all these kids and their families in our thoughts — even as we all have so much to worry about these days.

Stay safe, keep distancing.

And no, we’re not reopening America on May 1. Or a lot of people will die.

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