Sunoco Logistics, L.P. (Sunoco) filed petitions in late March 2014 to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) for exemptions from local zoning in municipalities impacted by its Mariner East pipeline project. During the first phase of the project, Sunoco converted an existing oil pipeline to transport natural gas liquids, including ethane, propane and butane at a higher pressure than natural gas. This called from the expansion of the line between Houston, PA and Delmont, PA as well as the construction of 17 valve stations and 18 pumping stations between Houston and Marcus Hook, an export facility on the east coast. The project spans more than 300 miles crossing over 2,700 different properties for which Sunoco must obtain easements.
The expansion of Mariner East 1 and several of the valve stations are in townships that MWA serves, including Rostraver, Hempfield, Salem, Penn, Loyalhanna, and Derry. The second phase, known as the Pennsylvania Pipeline Project, is the addition of two 16 and 20 inch pipelines within the same right-of-way as Mariner East 1. The pipelines cross 95 streams and 32 wetlands in the 50-mile long expansion section of the project alone. It will cross under the Yough near Sutersville, threatening the health and safety of our watershed.
The project, as originally described in Sunoco’s petitions, focused on the interstate transportation of natural gas liquids and as such is not regulated under FERC like most other natural gas pipelines. In its petitions to the PUC, Sunoco claimed status as a public utility corporation under the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), and therefore would be entitled to zoning exemptions if its buildings were shown to be “reasonably necessary for the convenience or welfare of the public.” As a public utility corporation, Sunoco would also have the right to use eminent domain to obtain right-of-ways when landowners are unwilling to sign easements for the pipelines.
In response to Sunoco’s petitions, MWA filed a petition to intervene, including our opposition to Sunoco’s petitions, to ensure that the citizens we serve have a voice in the regulatory process. In our opposition, MWA challenged Sunoco’s status as a public utility corporation and its claims of benefits from the project to Pennsylvanians. In response, Sunoco claimed it would also be providing intrastate service, in addition to its out-of-state service and was thus deserving of public utility status.
We are currently coordinating with local organizers and concerned landowners who are adamant about protecting their rights to clean air and water guaranteed under Article 1, Section 27 of the PA State Constitution.
As new shale gas drilling operations have slowed throughout the state due to a dramatic drop in market prices, the oil & gas industry must now shift their focus to transporting the excess reserves of natural gas to buyers both domestically and internationally. Although communities in Eastern PA have been on the frontlines advocating against pipeline expansion for years, these newly proposed Mariner East pipelines located in the western-half of the state unite all PA residents in the dispute.
If you would like more information on how you can help protect and preserve our environmental rights against this proposed pipeline expansion and other industrial encroachment visit our blog or contact Jordan.