Court: Town Must Turn Over Emails To Gas Pipeline Builder

A judge on Friday ordered the release of emails between officials in a Philadelphia suburb and the developer of a natural gas pipeline that was charged with environmental crimes related to construction of the multi-billion-dollar project.

Officials in Middletown Township have been refusing to produce the records for nearly a year, claiming they were exempt from disclosure under the state's open records law. Energy Transfer, the owner of the Mariner East pipeline system, also opposed their release.

A Delaware County judge ruled Friday that the records are public, and ordered the township to turn them over to the owners of a 124-unit apartment complex along the pipeline route.

Energy Transfer subsidiary Sunoco Pipeline LP, which has been installing two new pipelines to take natural gas liquids from the Marcellus Shale gas field in western Pennsylvania to an export terminal near Philadelphia, seized private property at Glen Riddle Station Apartments for the pipeline project.

Glen Riddle's owners say pipeline construction has threatened the health and safety of the residents. The pipeline’s route splits the apartment complex in half.

“From Day One, we believed the public had a right to know what discussions and agreements took place between Energy Transfer/Sunoco and Middletown Township,” Stephen Iacobucci, a representative of the apartment complex's ownership group, said in a statement Friday. “We thank the court for agreeing with us, and we look forward to examining exactly what happened to allow Sunoco to do what it has done to our community.”

The state attorney general's office last week charged Energy Transfer with 48 criminal counts related to Mariner East construction, most of them for illegally releasing industrial waste at 22 sites in 11 counties across the state. A grand jury report cites numerous spills of drilling fluid at the construction site at Glen Riddle.

Additionally, Glen Riddle residents had no drinking water when a water line serving the complex was broken in May during pipeline construction.

Iacobucci called on Sunoco to cease construction until the criminal charges are resolved, saying: “They show no regard for the people who live here and have put our communities and environment at risk unnecessarily."

Emails were sent Friday to the Middletown Township manager and a spokesperson for Energy Transfer seeking comment.