WEST GOSHEN — The governor was a changed man.
Gov. Tom Wolf smiled often during a recent walking tour of West Chester Borough. On that tour he told pipeline foes that he would soon tour the pipeline construction site.
Wolf kept to his word, Thursday, and met about 100 residents and fellow elected officials within feet of the Sunoco/Energy Transfer Mariner East pipeline route.
The governor received some applause when he stopped to listen and talk. He was surrounded five deep and sometimes talked in little more than a whisper.
That trademark smile was gone. The governor did not give those impacted by pipelines much to smile about either when he definitively said several times that he would not halt construction.
The press and media were not notified about the event.
Ginny Kerslake, of West Whiteland Township, nailed the governor down about the visit. She had personally asked him three times to come and see for himself.
“We want to show him how thousands of people in West Whiteland are living in the blast zone where dangerous, highly volatile liquids are flowing through two 80-year-old pipes,” Kerslake said. “He has to see with his own eyes.”
Kerslake said that if she were to lead the tour she would have taken the governor to Lisa Drive, in West Whiteland, where swimming pool-sized sinkholes forced five homeowners away. They were bought out by Sunoco.
“They had to leave in silence in order to get their fair compensation,” Kerslake said. “They had to go without any goodbyes.”
Eric Friedman is with the Middletown Coalition for Pipeline Safety.
“This project is like driving down a twisty road at night with your lights off,” he told the governor.
The governor’s head spun when East Goshen Supervisor David Shuey pointed in the direction of the Wellington retirement community, the busy parking lot at the mall the governor was standing in, Hershey’s Mill, a 55-plus community and a grade school, which are all within a couple hundred yards of where Wolf stood, and a stone’s throw from the ongoing pipeline construction and active lines.
“We don’t know what the impact area is because they won’t give up that information,” Shuey said.
East Goshen mom Melissa DiBernardino and Rebecca Britton told Wolf that there was no credible early detection system.
Uwchlan Township Supervisor Kim Doan said prior to the governor’s arrival that, “we incur the risk with absolutely no benefits.”
State Sen. Daylin Leach said prior to Wolf’s arrival that Sunoco was responsible for “all kinds of accidents.”
“Public safety should be our top concern,” the senator said.
Lora Snyder of Edgmont Community Safety Group said what many were thinking.
“We’ve been waiting a long time,” she said. “This is long overdue."
Bob Redfern of Media represents Faith Alliance for Pipeline Safety.
“This is certainly a surprise,” Redfern said prior to the governor’s arrival. “He hasn’t done anything to stop fracking.”
Wolf asked Kerslake how he could change. She said living near a pipeline was like playing Russian roulette.
Kerslake said after the visit that Wolf “finally” showed up.
The governor said he agrees with several pipeline bills, but they would not impact the Mariner East.
“This is not what we were asking for,” Kerslake said. “We want to talk about what’s going to happen to this pipeline.”
Brian Sweet is running for East Goshen Township supervisor.
“I’m disappointed he did not want to take a position to halt the pipeline,” Sweet said about Wolf. “I’m glad he was here to hear the resident’s concerns.”
All three county commissioners had a chance to address Wolf.
Michele Kichline and Terence Farrell said that communication needed to improve.
Kichline noted that when anything even slightly abnormal, like an ambulance makes a run to the nuclear power plant, Limerick Generating Station, the commissioners are notified. She said when Sunoco notifies first, an extra step in the process is deleted.
Mike Murphy, director of Chester County Director of Emergency Services, said the pipeline company and the county should be running tests.
“More communication is something we’ve asked for repeatedly,” Murphy said.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman has been a vocal critic of pipelines.
“This is another clear and powerful example of just how concerned many of us are in Chester County and the surrounding area about the potential dangers of Mariner East,” Dinniman said. “What was originally going to be an event where not much happened turned into something much larger because the citizens came out and insisted on it.
“Now it is up to me and my fellow legislators to work to get important bills, like our pipeline safety package and pipeline moratorium, to Governor Wolf's desk. And we’re going to need the continued and ongoing support of the citizens in that effort as well.”
State Reps. Carolyn Comitta and Kristine Howard attended.
They released a joint statement: “The governor coming to Chester County shows he is taking this issue seriously.”
State Rep. Chris Quinn said that safety is “paramount” when it comes to pipelines.
“I hope the governor will help us draft the legislation that we need,” he said.
Also, residents have until Aug. 28 to submit comments to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) under its current review of safety regulations regarding hazardous material pipelines.
Comments can be submitted electronically online at http://www.puc.pa.gov/about_puc/consolidated_case_view.aspx?Docket=L-2019-3010267 or be sent to the PUC (attention Secretary Rosemary Chiavetta) at 400 North Street, Harrisburg, PA 17120. Residents should remember to reference Docket No. L-2019-3010267.