“This is a culmination of our communities and residents organizing and documenting all these failures and impacts to our communities,” said Kerslake. “We know that there have been impacts in other communities across the commonwealth, but they are not as densely populated or connected to have their voices heard.”
Residents like Kerslake and DiGiulio say companies like Energy Transfer see fines as simply a cost of doing business. They have called on Gov. Tom Wolf to shut down the project.
Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Protection defended its record in holding Energy Transfer accountable and said the agency was reviewing the charges to “determine if any additional actions” would be taken against the company.
“DEP has been consistent in enforcing the permit conditions and regulations and has held Sunoco LP accountable, collecting more than $20 million in civil penalties,” DEP press secretary Jamar Thrasher said in an email. “As noted by the attorney general, DEP has cooperated with this office and shared information as appropriate in several instances. Further, the governor has repeatedly called on the General Assembly to strengthen existing laws on permitting processes to hold permittees to the highest level of accountability.”
Energy Transfer did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment.
The company has already paid more than $20 million in fines for more than 120 violations of the state’s Clean Streams Law. That same law is the basis for these criminal charges, which include 22 counts related to the discharge of industrial waste, 22 counts of pollution, two misdemeanors, and the felony charge related to not reporting pollution.
Criminal charges lodged against companies are rare, and it’s even less common to charge individuals. Environmental regulations and enforcement are built around compliance; urging companies to follow the law based on violations, fines, consent decrees, and if that doesn’t work, civil litigation.
The Attorney General’s Office does not have the authority to pull permits.
The Public Utility Commission oversees safety of the line. A spokesman said the agency “will carefully review the information released” in the grand jury presentment.
Read More: Mariner East builder Energy Transfer faces criminal charges