March 12, 2019
Chesco, Delco lawmakers urge Wolf to halt Mariner pipeline operations
WEST CHESTER — Pennsylvania lawmakers representing 11 House and three Senatorial districts across Chester and Delaware counties have signed a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf asking him to impose a moratorium on the transmission of natural gas liquids products through the Mariner East pipeline system until the mandated protocols are in place for local responders to properly manage a pipeline emergency.
Chester County Emergency Services and local school districts along the pipeline, including Downingtown Area School District, Rose Tree Media School District and West Chester Area School District have requested Energy Transfer Partners’ subsidiary SPLP to provide its Emergency Response Plan for the Mariner East project, which the responders and school districts need to complete their comprehensive All Hazards Emergency Response Plans and fulfill their statutory requirements under Title 35 of state law.
The letter urges Wolf to preserve the health, welfare and safety of constituents who live, work and raise their families in the high-consequence areas of Chester and Delaware counties within the impact radius of Mariner East. The pipeline also runs through Berks County.
“We have pipelines currently transporting highly volatile products through our communities, and our local first responders are not able to adequately plan their emergency response or mitigate our risk because the operator has failed to cooperate with repeated requests for their Emergency Response Plan,” said state Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester County. “Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco are risking a catastrophe, which is a criminal offense.
“I am grateful to my colleagues for their collaboration on this request. The bipartisan support for this moratorium underscores how important it is to take every possible step to ensure the safety of our communities and our first responders.”
The letter was signed by the following state representatives Rep. Steve Barrar, R-60 of Concord; Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156 of West Chester; Friel Otten, D-155 of West Whiteland; Rep. Kristine Howard, D-167; Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-26; Rep. John Lawrence, R-13; Rep. Chris Quinn, R-168 of Middletown; Christina Sappey, D-158; Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-157; Rep. Dan Williams, D-74; and Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161, as well as state Sens. Andy Dinniman, D-19; Katie Muth, D-44; and Tim Kearney, D-26 of Swarthmore.
Mariner East spokesmen did not return a call for comment as yet.
The company is building and operating the controversial Mariner East project, transporting volatile liquid gases across the full width of Pennsylvania, from the Marcellus Shale region to a facility in Marcus Hook.
Residents have opposed the project for years, saying the pipeline never should have been routed through densely populated neighborhoods, in close proximity to schools and senior centers.
Mariner East 1, which is a decades old smaller pipe that has been retrofitted to carry the new materials, has been shut down for weeks since a sinkhole formed in a Chester County neighborhood for the second time.
Mariner East 2 came online the last week of December, albeit not in the form Energy Transfer originally proposed. Mariner East 2 was proposed as a 20-inch pipe, but because of constant delays and other problems, Energy Transfer plugged in a hybrid version of several smaller pipes to fill in the gaps. Completion of the full Mariner East 2 pipeline now likely will not take place until 2020.
Mariner East 2x remains under construction.
In February the state Department of Environmental Protection halted all permits for the Mariner East 2 project, saying Energy Transfer had failed to take proper actions after an accident that caused an explosion in western Pennsylvania.
Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan last month announced he was launching a criminal investigation into the construction of Mariner East 2, noting his belief that state officials had not adequately protected citizens rights and safety. He now is impaneling an investigative grand jury to hear testimony from witnesses and review documents.
January 31, 2019
Democratic Senate colleague calls for State Sen. Daylin Leach’s expulsion
HARRISBURG — Democratic State Sen. Daylin Leach, who has faced calls to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct, now has a colleague from his own county pushing to expel him from office.
Newly elected Sen. Katie Muth (D., Montgomery) on Wednesday circulated a letter to members of the Senate Ethics Committee asking for Leach’s expulsion, contending that he has used his office to intimidate women who have accused him of sexual harassment or assault.
“His behavior is disturbing and unacceptable from a sitting elected official,” wrote Muth, who has spoken about her experience as a rape survivor and has in the past called on Leach to resign. “We must demand better of those we trust to act on behalf of this body as a voice for the people of Pennsylvania. That voice is loud and clear: This culture of rape … intimidation, and reprehensible behavior must end.”
Senate officials called her request rare, if not unprecedented. They said they could not recall another Pennsylvania lawmaker taking steps to expel a colleague, which would require approval of two-thirds of the 50 senators.
Leach declined to comment. His spokesperson, Frank Keel, dismissed Muth’s effort as “nothing more than a self-serving publicity stunt.”
Leach has faced controversy since the Inquirer reported in late 2017 that he had engaged in questionable behavior with young female staffers and volunteers — ranging from highly sexualized jokes and comments to what they considered inappropriate touching.
This month, Senate Democrats hired an outside law firm to investigate allegations by Cara Taylor, an Allentown-area woman, who has accused Leach of luring her into performing oral sex in 1991, when she was a teenager and he was a lawyer defending her mother in a criminal case.
Leach has repeatedly denied Taylor’s allegation. On Monday, he sued Taylor, along with two Philadelphia-area #MeToo activists, claiming they defamed him by peddling what he called the “fictional 1991 encounter.”
The lawsuit drew fresh calls for his resignation from some fellow Democrats, including Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who presides over the Senate, and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.
Leach responded in a statement saying, “I suppose the easy, knee-jerk reaction for the lieutenant governor and others is to pander to the #MeToo movement…. But I won’t be quiet while three women falsely accuse me in an attempt to destroy my career and my family.”
Reached Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, a Democrat from Allegheny County, declined to comment on Muth’s request for expulsion.
“It may end up before us, so therefore I’ve got no comment on it,” he said. He added: “The Senate’s members will serve as jury and judge and, as a result, it’s not appropriate” to discuss the matter.
The Ethics Committee, with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, operates in near-complete secrecy. Its meetings are closed and it does not publicly discuss complaints. Only in rare cases are some details released.
After it has reviewed and investigated a complaint, such as the one lodged by Muth, the committee can make public recommendations to the full Senate, officials said.
Last summer, Leach became upset when Muth declined to appear at an event with him. At the time, Muth was running a long-shot campaign against John Rafferty, a Republican senator for 15 years.
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