Sunoco and parent company Energy Transfer will not have to appear before a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to defend themselves against allegations of negligence. The energy giant has settled out of court with three Chester County residents who created a class action lawsuit against Sunoco after a medley of problems they claimed were avoidable.
The situation began in late 2017, after the construction of the Mariner East pipelines in a West Whiteland Township neighborhood. The residents had concerns about the location of the pipeline’s path, and ultimately, their worry proved valid in early 2018 when sinkholes began forming under parts of the pipeline. As the pipeline was in close vicinity of the plaintiffs’ homes, they feared future subsidence would potentially damage or engulf their homes. Again, their worry found validated when drilling fluid exploded as a result of the sinkholes, damaging one home and leaving the Mariner 1 Pipeline vulnerable to flames as is was, at the time, already operational and transporting natural gas.
As a result, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission stopped Sunoco from continuing construction halted its operation of their pipelines while they could investigate the matter. After their investigation, the PUC allowed Sunoco to resume construction and transmission.
The West Whiteland Township neighborhood residents filed suit with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, arguing that Sunoco was negligent in their pre-construction testing and willfully ignored the unique geography of the area, which they claim is more susceptible to land subsidence events. Though Sunoco acknowledged the subsidence and explosion in West Whiteland Township, they denied any claims that proper geological testing was not conducted.
The suit was still active until early April of this year when Sunoco and legal counsel for the three residents announced that a settlement had been reached between the two parties. Unfortunately, due to non-disclosure agreements, the plaintiffs are not permitted to discuss the terms of the settlement, so there is virtually no information available. Though not an admission of guilt, the settlement could bring hope to similarly affected Pennsylvanians who find taking action against the industry as daunting and implausible. Sunoco is still under investigation by PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro regarding claims of criminal negligence.