Friday, February 9, 2018

A curious time for a major news announcement

I'm a newspaper editor.

I get paid to be cynical.

So I can admit it didn't take long for my eyebrows to go up yesterday morning when we got word that the state Department of Environmental Protection and Sunoco Pipeline had settled their differences.

First the details. Sunoco Pipeline will pay $12 million for the series of "egregious" problems that have plagued construction of the massive Mariner East 2 pipeline. The work has been marked by a number of spills and discharges, and in one instance out near Harrisburg the company got caught using its controversial Horizontal Directional Drilling technique in an area where it was not permitted to do so.

In return for forking over that cool $12 million, Sunoco Pipeline will get the green light to restart construction on the line, which for the most part has been shut down since the DEP halted work back on Jan. 3.

None of which is what I find suspicious.

It's the timing that I find just a bit convenient.

Gov. Wolf, DEP and the PUC have been under intense heat from residents and environmental groups for their handling of the Mariner East 2 project. Residents continue to ask both the state and their local governments to do independent risk assessment studies on the project.

They had to know this deal - which allows Sunoco to restart construction and puts Mariner East 2, already months behind schedule - to get closer to reality was not going to be especially popular with residents.

So what better time to push out a press release announcing the settlement than the morning of the biggest event in Philly history.

Sunoco Pipeline is not on today's front page. That, of course, is owned by the Eagles.

The story is, however, on our "second" front, inside the paper after our special Super Bowl Parade section.

You can argue about our news judgment if you like.

What I don't think you can argue is that this deal was pushed out on a day when a lot of state officials no doubt were hoping it would fly under the radar.

For some reason, I don't think that's going to happen.

The people opposed to Mariner East 2 are not going away.

Even those who live and died with the Eagles.

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