Pipeline builder Energy Transfer was convicted of criminal charges stemming from groundwater contamination and other state environmental violations by two subsidiaries on the Mariner East 2 and Revolution pipelines in Pennsylvania, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.

Mariner East 2 pipeline constructor Sunoco Pipeline pleaded no contest to 14 criminal counts, and Revolution pipeline builder ETC Northeast Pipeline pleaded no contest to nine counts—essentially waiving a trial and allowing the court to treat them as guilty, without any admissions of guilt. Neither firm's executives or contractors were charged.

A grand jury investigation into the 350-mile Mariner East 2 pipeline, which carries natural gas liquids across 17 Pennsylvania counties, revealed that Sunoco reportedly let drilling fluid escape at multiple drill locations affecting streams, lakes and wetlands, which the company did not report to the state Dept. of Environment Protection, according to an Aug. 5 state AG statement. At some locations, the fluid was discovered to contain “unapproved additives” that could have affected drinking water from wells. The estimated $2.8-billion project was completed earlier this year.

A separate grand jury investigation into the 42.5-mile Revolution pipeline relates to a September 2018 explosion in Center Township, Pa., caused by escaping gas from a portion of the pipeline that had "been insufficiently embedded into the bedrock of the site," the statement said. 

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, whose office referred the Mariner East 2 case to the state, said the plea agreement by Energy Transfer "is a huge win" for county residents. 

Under the terms of the deal, Energy Transfer must assess impacts from Mariner East 2 construction to the water supply of homeowners who request the analysis, along with any necessary testing using geologists hired by the state. The firm will be responsible for any required remediation.

Energy Transfer will also provide $10 million to fund improvement projects for waterways impacted by construction, in addition to required restoration of land used in building the pipeline. “This funding is more than six times the maximum penalty under state law for the charges we originally brought,” states a fact sheet from the Pennsylvania AG’s office.

“The $10 million fund which Energy Transfer agreed to establish is not a fine or a penalty of any kind but the product of a voluntary collaboration with the Commonwealth,” said the firm in a statement. “The same is true for the well-water grievance procedure, which is a voluntary program agreed to by Energy Transfer. The fact remains that the total fines levied were limited to $57,500.”

The conviction will be visible on Energy Transfer's criminal record, including when applying for bids, says the AG. The firm previously was fined more than $20 million for 120 violations in Pennsylvania.