Tim Michels tied to criminal charges against Energy Transfer Partners in Pennsylvania

November 6, 2022

Homeowners Across Commonwealth Impacted By Unreported Losses of Drilling Fluid, Contaminated Drinking Water

DOWNINGTOWN—On October 5, 2022 Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, in conjunction with the 45th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, announced that the Office of Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Section has charged Energy Transfer, L.P. (Energy Transfer), the corporate successor to Sunoco Pipeline L.P., with 46 counts of environmental crimes for their conduct during the construction of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline.

Two additional counts were added, after the Grand Jury had concluded, bringing the total to 48 counts based on a criminal referral from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection.


The pipeline construction company building the line was Michels Construction, the same company that already has a contract with Enbridge Energy to build Line 5 through northern Wisconsin, and whose owner and CEO is running for governor.

The Mariner East 2 Pipeline project crosses 17 counties in the southern tier of Pennsylvania. The Grand Jury learned that at many of the locations, Energy Transfer received permits that allowed horizontal directional drilling (HDD) as the construction method. While constructing the pipeline, Michels Construction repeatedly allowed thousands of gallons of drilling fluid to escape underground, which sometimes surfaced in fields, backyards, streams, lakes and wetlands.

According to the Grand Jury investigation:

Investigation revealed that Michels had lost drilling fluid 22 different times during the drilling of the 20-inch line and another nine times during work on the 16-inch line. The volume of fluid lost totaled close to 3 million gallons.

Sunoco was permitted to begin work on the parallel 16-inch pipeline in March 2020, using subcontractor Michels. Losses of circulation occurred on March 16 (1,000 gallons), March 17 (2,000 gallons), and March 19 (650 gallons), April 3 and April 7 before the work was finally completed on April 11, 2020. ARM Group, LLC reviewed the logs and found twenty four instances of losses of circulation on these drills and twenty three inadvertent returns. Most of these losses of circulation were not reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“There is a duty to protect our air and water, and when companies harm these vital resources through negligence—it is a crime,” said AG Shapiro. “By charging them, we can both seek to hold them criminally accountable and send a clear message to others about how seriously we take protecting the environment and public health.”

Energy Transfer failed to report the losses of fluid to the DEP numerous times, in spite of the legal requirement to do so. The Grand Jury found that there were multiple drill locations where the drilling fluid contained unapproved additives that entered the waters of the Commonwealth — impacting the drinking water of Pennsylvanians who rely on water wells.

“Pennsylvanians from impacted communities testified about thousands of gallons of drilling fluid being lost underground — groundwater and lakes, rivers, and streams contaminated. What they said was consistent: Energy Transfer started drilling, the fluid started leaking, their drinking water was impacted, DEP wasn’t notified, and nobody was held criminally accountable. These charges are changing that, starting today,” said AG Shapiro.

The Grand Jury recommended that Energy Transfer be charged with 22 counts of Prohibition of Discharge of Industrial Waste under the Clean Streams Law; 22 counts of Prohibition Against Other Pollutions under the Clean Streams Law; two misdemeanor counts of Unlawful Conduct under the Clean Streams Law; and one felony count of Unlawful Conduct under the Clean Streams Law.

All charges are accusations and the defendant is innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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One Comment on “Tim Michels tied to criminal charges against Energy Transfer Partners in Pennsylvania”

  1. B.Fairbanks November 9, 2022 at 7:18 pm #

    All I can say is thank God he didn’t get his foot in the door of being a government offical, and the governor of Wisconsin.

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