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From l-r, Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline, Kathi Cozzone and Terence Farrell look over the redacted pipeline safety plan.

WEST CHESTER — The Chester County Commissioners confirmed the county received Sunoco’s Emergency Management Plan on Wednesday, but officials were not pleased.

County officials complained that large portions of long-awaited pipeline emergency management plan were blacked out for “security reasons.”

According to Mike Murphy, director of Chester County’s Department of Emergency Services, only about 5 percent of the plan is usable.

“Anger, frustration, exasperation, disgust — these words don’t even begin to cover how we feel about this latest action by Sunoco,” Chester County Commissioners’ Chairwoman Michelle Kichline said. "To call this a plan is ridiculous, and to say that they are cooperating is an insult.”

“Over the past two years, Chester County has reached out to Sunoco on many occasions to gather crucial pipeline emergency safety information that would allow the Department of Emergency Services to work with all first responders to better prepare for mass notification and neighborhood emergency practices in the event of a pipeline disaster,” reads a Thursday afternoon release by the county. “DES leaders and the County Commissioners have formally contacted Sunoco directly as well as through the Public Utility Commission and PEMA.”

“This plan is worthless,” Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said. “For Sunoco to claim that they have sent us their emergency plan is beyond wrong and this document does not let them ‘check that box’ to say they have cooperated, because yet again, they haven’t.”

“We reached out to all pipeline operators with a presence in Chester County and the only one that refused to provide an emergency plan was Sunoco,” Cozzone said. “None of the other pipeline operator plans include large chunks of blacked-out information, and the reason for this is that none of the other operators insisted on sending the plan through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.”

According to a Del-Chesco United for Pipeline safety representative, Delaware County officials had not received a similar document. Chester County EMS is not allowed to share any information.

A Sunoco blog reads that Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration officials, and not the pipeline builder, released the plan.

“We have been working through this request with PHMSA to help the Chester County Department of Emergency Services obtain a copy of our Facility Response Plan,” reads the unsigned blog.

Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety released the following Thursday statement: “The most recent in a long string of ETP-operated pipeline explosions occurred this past March 3. Now, years after starting to transport hazardous, highly volatile liquids next to area schools and neighborhoods, Sunoco has finally given its so-called emergency response plan to Chester County while continuing to hide it from the public.

“This heavily redacted document certainly contains Sunoco’s estimate of what it calls the ‘blast radius,’ but there’s no secret to keep. Delaware County’s risk assessment established this distance as over one mile wide. It appears the real secret Sunoco wants to hide is that there is no credible plan to protect the public from its continued leaks of these dangerous materials.”

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th Dist., has led the charge for pipeline safety.

“I cease to be amazed by the depths to which Sunoco/ETP will sink or the stunts they will try to pull when it comes to an utter lack of concern for public safety and boldfaced disrespect for the residents, families, and children impacted by this project,” Dinniman said. “This latest development highlights our need for a stronger regulatory mechanism to protect our communities and help ensure pipeline safety in Pennsylvania.

“It’s also why I’ve introduced Senate Bill 258, which requires pipeline companies to meet with county emergency coordinators to identify and share vital information regarding a potential pipeline emergency.

“This bill was passed out of committee last session and the governor recently called for its enactment. The legislature needs to pass it this session to help ensure that emergency first responders across the Commonwealth have the information they need to prepare for safely and effectively responding to potential pipeline emergencies.”

Ashley Gagné is a Democratic candidate for West Goshen Supervisor.

“I hope that Pennsylvania establishes a formal process to ensure strict levels of compliance for any future pipeline projects,” Gagne wrote in a email. “The emergency management and evacuation plan should come before the project is even set to begin, not years after, and its construction should be contingent on the feasibility of those emergency management procedures.

“Much of the progress we are seeing right now opposing the Mariner East pipeline is the result of years of hard work and dedication by the residents of Chester County and grassroots pipeline safety groups.”

Activist and filmmaker Christina “P.K.” Digiulio responded.

“I want to understand how our federal agencies assisted Sunoco in hiding pertinent information from our emergency services,” she said. “Why is it being released now? Why not before when we asked or when they were required to?

“What I do know is that the release of this document does not make this pipeline safe or in compliance, and the most our emergency services will learn from this release of information is ... what a heavily redacted document looks like. This company has proven they are not to be trusted. I just hope our government is not assisting this company in its irresponsible and abusive behaviors.”

Uwchlan resident Laura Obenski weighed in: “Sunoco has shown over and over they aren’t serious about protecting the safety of those at risk from the Mariner East project. To submit information to our emergency responders that is nothing but a small percentage of the necessary information needed to develop credible safety plans is a slap in the face to our emergency responders and the community members who will be gravely effected by a disaster involving the pipeline. Governor Wolf should have shut this project down a long time ago - our families and first responders should not be forced to work with a company that plays games with the safety and welfare of our community.”

Rebecca Britton of the Uwchlan Safety Coalition said Sunoco is risking a catastrophe.

“If the operator was as committed to safety as they frequently tout in their well-timed marketing campaigns then they would not be playing games with those responsible for our health and safety,” she said. “This treatment of our brave first responders makes a mockery of our state and is a public display of just how much bargaining power Sunoco has.

“Governor Wolf should uphold his duties under Title 35 and direct his state agencies to halt all operations and construction of the Mariner East pipeline system immediately.”

The Commissioners announced at the end of February the County’s plan to take legal action against Sunoco, beginning with intervention in the Flynn et al. v. Sunoco Pipeline LP proceedings before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, according to the county release. The Petition to Intervene was filed Thursday. In addition to the legal action, the Commissioners gave notice to Sunoco Pipeline LP of the termination of two temporary easements on the Chester County Library property that were granted to Sunoco in 2017. The notice explained that there were no terms for renewal of the temporary easements within the 2017 agreements.

“Because the document we received withholds critical safety information we are exploring further legal action to get what our first responders really need, and what our citizens deserve,” Commissioner Terence Farrell said.

“Those police, fire and EMS personnel on the front line are doing everything that they can to be trained and equipped for a pipeline disaster. The one part missing is Sunoco’s comprehensive emergency plan, and despite Sunoco’s claims, we still do not have that.”

The training that Chester County’s Department of Emergency Services and first responders undertake for scenarios such as a pipeline leak or explosion include tabletop exercises and emergency drills to validate response plans, attendance at advanced pipeline emergency courses throughout the country, work with municipalities to ensure their plans and procedures are synced with the operators’ and County plans, and training with a pipeline prop at the County’s Public Safety Training Campus,” according to the county release. The county has also purchased combustible gas detectors for fire departments as well as specialized equipment for the county’s Hazmat team.

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