Attorney General Josh Shapiro on Tuesday announced a slew of criminal charges against Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based company behind the construction of a controversial 350-mile natural gas pipeline that runs through 17 counties.
Shapiro announced that his office filed 48 criminal charges against Energy Transfer for violating state environmental statutes, with 45 of the charges being for illegally releasing industrial waste throughout the state.
The charges follow an 18-month investigation by a statewide grand jury which found that Sunoco Pipeline L.P. – which later merged with Energy Transfer – “criminally failed to properly report and address the environmental hazards created by its operations during the entirety of the pipeline project.”
Shapiro said the charges stem from the illegal release of industrial waste at 22 different sites in 11 counties across the state. The grand jury’s findings detailed the release of hundreds of thousands of gallons of drilling fluid into lakes, waterways and residential areas since the pipeline’s construction began in 2017.
Shapiro said upwards of 150 families suffered contaminated drinking water from construction of the pipeline.
“Corporations should not be treated leniently just because there's not a mugshot of Energy Transfer being arrested today,” Shapiro said at a press conference. “They should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. That is what we are here to do – to apply the law without fear or without favor.”
Shapiro announced the charges from Marsh Creek State Park in Chester County, which was polluted with between 21,000 and 28,000 gallons of drilling fluid just last year, according to the grand jury’s findings.
A spokesperson for Energy Transfer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The charges prompted some to call for a halt to the Mariner East II pipeline project. State Sen. Carolyn Comitta, who serves as the Democratic chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said in a statement that the project should be stopped and that the Department of Environmental Protection should issue a moratorium on all permits.
“These charges allege a pattern of behavior from Energy Transfer that [puts] our environment, our communities, and our very public health and safety at significant risk,” Comitta said. “Worse yet, according to the charges, Energy Transfer repeatedly and willfully failed to oversee, notify, and report inadvertent returns, spills, and contamination of streams, waterways, wells, and sources of drinking water.”
Shapiro said whether the pipeline should be allowed to continue is not up to his office, but the Department of Environmental Protection.
“The Office of Attorney General does not issue permits. We have no say over permits,” he said. “Obviously, they are now learning this information as you are now learning this, and they'll make a determination as to what to do going forward with regard to permits.”