Sunoco reaches settlement on natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - State officials, environmental groups and the owners of a natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania reached an agreement to allow drilling to continue while providing protections to the public.

The settlement came after Middletown Township residents filed a lawsuit against Sunoco Logistics in May, arguing the planned 350-mile-long pipeline is too close to their homes.

In the settlement released Tuesday, Sunoco agreed to re-evaluate 47 high-risk sites associated with the Mariner East 2 pipeline. The drilling plans for those sites will then be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for approval. The re-evaluations will be posted online.

Sunoco also agreed to send the plans to homeowners who have private wells near the drilling areas and offer opportunities to have their water tested.

Democratic State Sen. Andrew Dinniman told the Philadelphia Inquirer the settlement has all of the stipulations he requested after horizontal drilling for the pipeline tainted the wells of close to 30 residences in West Whiteland Township in July.

The agreement comes a day before a scheduled hearing before the state's Environmental Hearing Board on a petition to halt all Sunoco Pipeline drilling. Judge Bernard Labuskes Jr. postponed the hearing, but kept a temporary ban on 39 drilling operations until the board reviews the settlement.

The planned $2.5 billion pipeline will carry propane, butane and ethane from the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation to an export terminal near Philadelphia. Horizontal drilling is used to tunnel beneath waterways and other obstructions.

Sunoco declined to comment on the settlement.