A pipeline managed by Sunoco logistics burst Thursday night after heavy rainfall in Pennsylvania. The spill dumped 55,000 gallons of gasoline into Wallis Run, a tributary of the Loyalsock Creek that drains into the Susquehanna River. The breach was detected at 3 am when the pressure of the pipeline dropped significantly, leading Sunoco to shut down the pipeline. Though the pipeline has been shut down, the heavy rains that led to the leak are expected to continue, so the actual break in the pipeline will remain unidentified until the weather clears. The Pennsylvania water authorities have warned customers to refrain from using water from the river as a precaution. No official data has been released regarding how long the ban on water use will continue.
The Susquehanna had previously been declared the third most endangered river in the US by the NGO American Rivers. It has come under threat due to the development of the natural gas industry, particularly the practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” Fracking has caused major problems in the US due to the so-called “Cheney’s loophole” that exempts natural gas companies from the vast majority of US environmental regulations. Many other rivers in the US are endangered by fracking. American Rivers has said that fracking “poses one of the greatest risks our nation’s rivers have faced in decades. We are taking a major gamble on the clean drinking water for millions of Americans.”
Though the recent floods have been blamed for the spill, some are calling this into question due to Sunoco’s lengthy history of poor pipeline management. Indeed, pipelines managed by Sunoco Logistics spill more frequently than another, with more than 200 recorded leaks since 2010. This is also not the first spill of a Sunoco pipeline in Pennsylvania. In 2008, an improperly installed valve “blew out” a pipeline in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection said that the area affected by the spill may never completely recover.
Sunoco is also a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners Limited, the company that also owns the controversial Dakota Access pipeline. The Dakota Access pipeline has been the site of a major protest against its construction, led by the Standing Rock Sioux with support from environmental activists and the United Nations. The Sioux and others argue that the pipeline threatens their water supply as well as their sacred sites. The protests have been brutally suppressed on several occasions by both private security and state police. Also concerning is the fact that both US “duopoly” presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are major advocates of fracking and pipeline construction, suggesting that – unless the general public stands up – the US’ fossil-fuel nightmare could quickly become worse as soon as January.