November 12, 2019
The FBI reportedly has opened a corruption investigation into Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's administration and its approval of construction permits for the contentious Mariner East pipeline projects, according to the Associated Press.
FBI agents have spoken to current and former state employees about the project and permits, per the AP:
"The focus of the agents’ questions involves the permitting of the pipeline, whether Wolf and his administration forced environmental protection staff to approve construction permits and whether Wolf or his administration received anything in return, those people say."
Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection halted construction permits for Energy Transfer, the company behind the Mariner East pipelines, in early February. In a statement at the time, Wolf said Energy Transfer failed to respect the state's laws and communities.
“This is not how we strive to do business in Pennsylvania, and it will not be tolerated,” Wolf said then.
The governor also has voiced his support for the projects in the past, according to the AP, citing the economic benefits to the state.
A spokesperson for Energy Transfer told the AP on Tuesday that the company hasn't been contracted by the FBI about the Mariner East projects.
A Wolf administration spokesperson and the chief federal prosecutor in Harrisburg both declined to comment to the AP.
The Mariner East projects include the resuscitation of the Mariner East 1, which restarted operations carrying natural gas liquids across the state in 2014. The Mariner East 2 pipeline began operating last December, and the Mariner East 2X pipeline is expected to finish construction next year, or in 2021.
The latest in a series of sinkholes along the pipelines opened up in September in Delaware County. A pipeline along the Mariner East 2 project exploded in western Pennsylvania in September 2018, and a sinkhole along the Mariner East 1 opened up in Chester County in January 2018.
Between May 2017 and November 2018, two of Energy Transfer’s pipelines in Pennsylvania and Ohio — including the Mariner East 2 — racked up more than 800 state and federal violations, according to the Digital Journal.
Sam Rubin, an organizer with national environmental organization Food & Water Action, said in September that the pipelines have "wreaked havoc" and their danger will "only grow over time.
"The only solution is an immediate halt to this madness," Rubin said, "and the governor is the only person with the power, and the responsibility, to do so.”