(Reuters) - Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission (PUC) voted on Thursday to allow Energy Transfer Partners LP's Sunoco Mariner East 1 natural gas liquids pipeline to return to service, reversing a suspension tied to safety concerns.
The PUC stopped flows on Mariner East 1 through West Whiteland Township after sinkholes were discovered near the pipeline, prompting State Senator Andrew Dinniman to ask for an emergency order to suspend service.
All five PUC commissioners voted to allow Mariner East 1 to resume service. Three of the five commissioners, however, also voted to prevent ETP from working on the Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines in West Whiteland Township.
The decision overturned the emergency order, which was granted last month by a PUC administrative law judge and stopped ETP from moving liquids through Mariner East 1 and working on Mariner East 2 and 2X in the Chester County town, located about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Philadelphia. Dinniman's district includes West Whiteland Township.
It was not the first time Mariner East 1 was shut due to those sinkholes.
The state stopped flows of liquids on Mariner East 1 for over eight weeks from March to May after the sinkholes were found, forcing producers like Range Resources Corp to find other ways to get their liquids to market.
The PUC allowed ETP to resume flows on Mariner East 1 after the company conducted an extensive geological analysis, among other things.
The three commissioners who voted to stop construction on Mariner East 2 and 2X in West Whiteland Township want the company to do more inspections, among other things.
ETP said it would consider its legal options as far as not being able to work on Mariner East 2 and 2X in the town.
Delays related to spills and other matters have pushed back the expected startup of the $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 to the third quarter of 2018 from the third quarter of 2017.
Mariner East 1 started service in the 1930s transporting refined products from the Philadelphia area to western Pennsylvania.
It was repurposed and expanded to transport propane in 2014 and ethane in 2016 from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields in western Pennsylvania to customers in the state and elsewhere, including international exports from ETP's Marcus Hook complex near Philadelphia.
Mariner East 2 will boost capacity of the Mariner East project from 70,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 345,000 bpd and open the pipeline to suppliers in Ohio and West Virginia. Mariner East 2X, which is expected to enter service in mid 2019, will add another 250,000 bpd.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Paul Simao and Marguerita Choy)