Dangerous pipeline protests put first responders at risk

Protective boundaries divide a residential area and the Mariner East 2 pipeline construction site in West Chester.

Protective boundaries divide a residential area and the Mariner East 2 pipeline construction site in West Chester. NurPhoto/Getty Images

Construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline is nearing completion and will soon safely transport reliable and affordable energy across Pennsylvania. Throughout the pipeline system’s multi-year construction, Mariner East has brought immense benefits, including billions in economic investment and thousands of skilled labor jobs. However, some environmentalists have decided to stand in the way of progress, attempting to block the completion of Mariner East with disruptive and dangerous protests.

Just this past month, two protesters trespassed at an active pipeline construction site and locked themselves together on equipment, temporarily halting work on the project. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time local law enforcement have been called to remove unruly protesters and secure pipeline construction sites. As a former district attorney, this concerns me.

Interruptions to the pipeline’s final construction are unproductive and pose unnecessary risks to first responders, pipeline workers and protesters themselves. Law enforcement who are called to the scene are pulled away from their intended job of protecting the community while limiting their ability to respond to other important calls. While the right to peaceably assemble and petition is protected under the First Amendment, breaking the law and putting others in harm’s way is not.

Pennsylvanians can and should exercise their right to peacefully protest. However, it should be performed in a way that does not interrupt progress and create danger for others. This pipeline is being built in the safest way possible with respect to the surrounding community, and the same respect should be returned by those who feel inclined to voice their opposition. I worked hard to ensure that same level of decorum on tough issues when I was a county commissioner, too.

The more activists continue to protest the construction of Mariner East, the longer it will take for Pennsylvania to take advantage of the affordable energy and continued economic benefits the project will provide. In addition to the billions of dollars invested in communities throughout the state during its construction, the pipeline offers a huge tax boost for Pennsylvania.

Completion of Mariner East will also help from an environmental standpoint. Pipelines are provento be the safest and most efficient way to transport energy. In fact, studies show that pipelines are 4.5 times safer than transporting oil and gas by rail. The Mariner East pipeline has taken extensive precautions in protecting local communities by ensuring the project follows industry best practices and meets or exceeds regulations. And, pipelines like Mariner East undergo rigorous permitting standards before construction even begins, having been approved by local, state and federal officials.

The focus on potential risks distracts from the benefits of energy infrastructure. Activists have ignored the close partnership between the industry and first responders, including the Pennsylvania Pipeline Awareness and Emergency Response Training program, which has served as an opportunity for emergency officials, public officials and others statewide to learn and understand pipeline safety. More than 2,350 local first responders have been trainedacross the state through the Mariner Emergency Responder Outreach program.

Opinions may differ. But I strongly urge those who continue to protest the Mariner East 2 pipeline to fully educate themselves on pipeline safety and reconsider their distracting and dangerous attempts at disrupting the construction process and preventing Pennsylvania from reaching its full energy potential.

Bruce L. Castor Jr. was appointed as the first solicitor general of Pennsylvania in 2016 and served as acting attorney general later that year. He served as district attorney and county commissioner in Montgomery County.