PUC overturns judge’s decision on Sunoco Logistics

The Pennsylvania PUC has found Sunoco Logistics to be a public utility. The case was sent back to a PUC judge to rule on zoning issues.

Sunoco pipeline: PUC overturns judge’s decision, sends pipeline back for further review

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Sunoco Logistics’ Marcus Hook facility outside of Philadelphia. (AP)
By Nick Malawskey | nmalawskey@pennlive.com
 

Sunoco Logistics’ proposed 300-mile pipeline project, Mariner East, which cuts through much of the midstate, is headed toward another round of hearings.

In a 4-1 vote Thursday the Public Utility Commission ruled to overturn an administrative law judge’s decision regarding the jurisdiction of the pipeline, specifically whether or not the pipeline constitutes a public utility and, by extension, whether or not structures built along the proposed pipeline would qualify as buildings under local zoning ordinances.

It is that question – when is a structure exempt from local zoning rules – that administrative law judges will be asked to review and rule upon. The commission further dismissed eight other remaining preliminary objections brought in the case.

The commission ruled that Sunoco has a long-standing status as a public utility back to the 1930s when two of its pipelines were certified as public utilities.

Commissioners further stated that other questions about the project, namely the route, safety concerns and whether or not Sunoco is authorized to build the pipeline, are outside the bounds of the issue before the PUC. Objections in that vein had been filed by the Clean Air Council, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the Concerned Citizens of West Goshen Township and the Mountain Watershed Association.

“In this proceeding, the commission is being asked to decide on a very narrow question: Whether enclosures (walls and a roof) that are built around and over a valve control or pump station should be exempt from municipal zoning regulation,” the commission said in a statement.

The lone dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner James Cawley, who objected to the PUC’s rejection of the remaining objections.

“I think it is beyond dispute Sunoco has [public utility] certificates from us,” he said Thursday. “That being said, that dealt with only one of the nine preliminary objections.”

Cawley said that while addressing the other objections would require additional hearings – and time, “I think we owe it to the people affected to take that time.”

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This map shows the Mariner East pipeline which extends from Delmont to Marcus Hook as well as a number of the pipeline’s feeder lines. A former oil pipeline, the Mariner East is being repurposed to transport natural gas products east.Provided by Sunoco Logistics

Mariner East is an existing oil pipeline that Sunoco plans to retrofit to transport natural gas products, propane and ethane, east, from Marcellus Shale natural gas processing centers in western Pennsylvania with Sunoco Logistics’ Marcus Hook facility near Philadelphia.

A former oil refinery, Sunoco is in the process of renovating the facility to accommodate natural gas products being shipped from the shale regions for export. The company is also proposing a second pipeline, the Mariner East II, which would mirror the existing pipeline.

At an infrastructure conference in August, Sunoco said it plans to have Mariner East I online by the fourth quarter of this year, with additional capacity coming online in mid-2015. Sunoco Logistics’ showed a start date of fourth quarter 2016 for the Mariner East II project.

However, PUC officials said Thursday there is, as yet, no timeline for the hearings that would be required before a judge could rule on the zoning questions surrounding the pipeline’s pump and valve stations.
Further, it is unlikely that such a ruling would be made before the end of this year, they said.

Update: Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline in Lebanon County

The Lebanon Pipeline Awareness group continues to oppose the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline of the Williams Company. Below is a letter sent out from this group with more information and updates on the issue.

Greetings,

Fall is here! Hope everyone is enjoying the harvest season as the leaves change and the days turn shorter. We welcome all those new to our contact list.

Some of you may have received a mailing from us concerning easement offers from Williams. We know these offers have been made in Lancaster County – where some landowners have publicly refused the offer – and we have also heard that offers have been made in Schuylkill County. If you received an offer, please let us know; we’d like to know if Lebanon County landowners are receiving offers at this time.

Because this is an important issue and we want to be sure we did not miss anyone, we are including the information here that was in the mailing. If you have received an offer or will in the future, we urge you to consider the following:

Whether you are opposed to this pipeline or not, the fact remains that this first offer is probably not the best offer you can receive. Before you sign an agreement with Williams, please consider the following:
FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) has not yet approved this project. Therefore, be aware that—while Williams reserves the right to alter the course or otherwise change project details—you are locked into a legally binding contract without that same right to alter the terms of the agreement.

Once a Right of Way (ROW), always a ROW. Once the gas company establishes a ROW, they have the right to access it whenever they want, utilizing your property for future pipeline construction, expansion, replacement, or additional infrastructure requirements such as compressor stations or pumping stations. You are not simply saying “yes” to this high-pressure 42-inch line, but to additional projects they envision for this same ROW in the future.

Homeowners’ Insurance and Mortgages: Be sure to call your insurance carrier and mortgage provider to inquire how this pipeline would affect your insurance coverage and mortgage rates. Some insurance and mortgage companies are refusing to take the risk and therefore denying coverage—OR, even if they do not drop your coverage, they may refuse to cover any damages relating to pipeline failures (accidents, leaks, water contamination, explosions, etc.). That means if there is any kind of accident in the future (or unforeseen damage done to your property during the installation), you would have to sue the gas company for any compensation. Williams’ insurance covers Williams—not you!

Property Values: If you had any inclination to sell your home in the future, the price of your property will likely decline substantially as a result of this project. This is particularly the case in scenic, rural areas—far more so than in urban or industrial areas.

In addition, a document containing useful information from the following websites was included:

Landowner’s Rights – Pipeline Safety Coalition – http://www.pscoalition.org/pages/landowners-rights

Eminent domain attorney Michael Faherty’s website lists examples of case settlements that show the original offer and the final settlement – http://www.laverylaw.com/news/eminent_news.php

We hope you will review this information and strongly urge you to get legal representation before signing any agreement for the pipeline. Remember that Williams is negotiating for their best deal, not yours.

Other news

Atlantic Sunrise Updates
Williams announced its environmental stewardship program this week. Read what Lancaster County residents had to say about the program in this article. We at Lebanon Pipeline Awareness agree: It seems quite unfair that community environmental organizations, no matter how well-intentioned and how much good community work they do, should be included in discussions and receive possible benefits when landowners are excluded from these talks and are taking a personal loss. This is just one more way that Williams will try divide a community by creating winners and losers.

South Londonderry Township
A community group is forming in South Londonderry Township! The first meeting for interested South Londonderry Township residents will take place Tuesday, October 21, at 6 p.m. Please contact us at lebanonpipeline@gmail.com for details if you are interested in joining this group.

Union Township
We would like to hold a community information meeting in Union Township and are searching for a place to meet. If you can help us locate a meeting place, please let us know.

We intend to hold meetings in all the townships along the pipeline in Lebanon County. If you are willing to help organize a community meeting in your township, by all means contact us!

The opposition grows!
Martic Township became the first municipality in Lancaster County along the pipeline to officially oppose the Atlantic Sunrise project. The supervisors voted 5-0 to say NO to the pipeline after hearing from their constituents that the pipeline is not in their best interest.  Read the article here.

Have you asked your township supervisors where they stand on the pipeline? With the upcoming election, have you questioned the candidates about the pipeline? They cannot know your opinion unless they hear from you, so we urge all of you to talk to your elected officials and candidates now and let them know how you feel about the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. Always remember that your legislators – from local to federal – were elected to represent you!

Upcoming Events
LANCASTER COUNTY PIPELINE INFORMATIONAL MEETING
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2014 – TONIGHT!!!

WHEN: Thursday, October 16, 2014
TIME: 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.
WHERE: Farm and Home Center, 1383 Arcadia Road, Lancaster, PA

We don’t know what seating will be available at this meeting presented by the Lancaster Farmland Trust and The Lancaster County Conservancy, but it is open to the public.

RALLY TO SUPPORT LANDOWNERS & NEIGHBORS IN LANCASTER COUNTY
OCTOBER 25 AT NOON IN BINNS PARK, LANCASTER CITY

Show your support for our southern neighbors by attending this rally planned to show landowners along the pipeline that they are not alone. Find more details on the event here.

Would you like to see a pipeline event in Lebanon County? We sure would, but we need your help. Contact us with your ideas at lebanonpipeline@gmail.com.

As always we thank you for your interest and support – and remind you to follow our blog and Facebook page to keep up with the latest pipeline news.

On behalf of Lebanon Pipeline Awareness,

Ann

Ann Pinca
lebanonpipeline@gmail.com

Philadelphia Airport Redesigns Expansion Plans to Avoid Tinicum Township Homes

Mike Faherty advised elected officials and residents of Tinicum Township that the Philadelphia Airport had the power of eminent domain in Philadelphia, but not in Tinicum Township. The Philadelphia Airport agreed to redesign the multibillion dollar expansion to avoid 72 homes and multiple businesses in Tinicum Township.

Philadelphia airport expansion won’t displace residents, officials say

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Reading Eagle.com/AP


Plans to boost the regional economy through a multibillion-dollar modernization of Philadelphia International Airport can move forward without displacing hundreds of nearby residents, officials said Monday.
A reconfiguration of the proposed expansion has resolved a yearslong dispute with adjacent Tinicum Township that had kept the project in limbo because it threatened the demolition of 72 homes and about a dozen businesses. The development will no longer encroach on that land.

Local leaders described the agreement as a victory for jeopardized residents and the area as a whole. The project could boost the airport’s regional economic impact from $14.4 billion in 2006 to $26.4 billion by 2025, officials said. “Today’s announcement is a triumph for everyone from the baggage handler to the corporate executive, from the vacation traveler to the airlines,” Delaware County Council chairman Thomas McGarrigle said.

The expansion is designed to make one of the nation’s busiest airports more competitive by reducing delays and adding capacity and services. Expected improvements include an extra runway, an automated people mover and a new ground transportation center over the next 12 to 15 years. The agreement announced at an airport news conference would settle four pending lawsuits among the township, county, city of Philadelphia and Interboro School District. It still requires approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The deal calls for the city-owned airport to make a collective payment of nearly $1.9 million annually to the township, county and schools. Tinicum will get an additional $1 million per year for 20 years, or until the expansion is done. The airport had previously made lower annual payments to those taxing authorities but stopped when litigation began in 2007, officials said. The funds are meant to offset lost revenue potential from airport-occupied land in Tinicum. The dispute had been so intractable that many residents thought it would never be resolved, said Thomas Giancristoforo, president of the township’s board of commissioners.

“They have been patient over these many years as we worked to make sure the residents of Tinicum were heard, respected and protected as the plans for the airport expansion have evolved,” he said. The airport served nearly 31 million passengers last year and accommodated more than 400,000 takeoffs and landings. But officials stressed the need to grow, noting the facility has become a hub for the world’s largest airline now that American Airlines has merged with US Airways.

“If we stand still, we fall behind,” said Rina Cutler, the city’s deputy mayor for transportation. Early estimates pegged the cost of the expansion at $6.4 billion, but airport CEO Mark Gale said Monday the figure could change. The mammoth project would create about 4,460 construction jobs and 1,830 professional service jobs, officials said.

The airport employs about 22,000 direct workers and supports 141,000 regional jobs, Gale said.

Revised Language Helps in Settlement with Pipeline Company

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A property owner was facing the threat of eminent domain by a pipeline company. The pipeline company offered $63,390 based on a linear foot calculation. Mike Faherty represented this property owner and was able to settle the matter with revised language which described:

• A single pipeline
• A pipeline buried to a depth of four feet across crop fields
• Property owner use of timber and
• Restricted access language.

The matter settled for $330,000.

Statute of Limitations in Eminent Domain Cases

A recent court ruling defines the time allowed for a property owner to seek compensation. Payment of estimated just compensation, rather than the written offer to pay, triggers the start of the time limit of the Statute of Limitations. Tender of payment does not commence Statute of Limitations under 26 Pa. C.S. §307(a)(1)(i).

Update: Sunoco/Mariner East Not a Public Utility

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has initially rejected the Sunoco/ Mariner East effort to be found to be a public utility. Thus, Sunoco must comply with local zoning and Sunoco does not obtain the power of eminent domain. The decision is a significant victory for Pennsylvania property owners.

Independent judges: Sunoco Logistics pipeline can’t bypass local zoning laws

stateimpact.npr.org
By: Katie Colaneri
July 30, 2014

Sunoco Logistics can’t bypass local zoning laws to develop its natural gas liquids pipeline project known as Mariner East. That’s the word from a pair of independent administrative law judges for the state’s Public Utility Commission, or PUC.

Sunoco Logistics wants to build 31 pump and valve stations to keep natural gas liquids flowing along the pipeline’s 300-mile route from western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook. For months, the company has attempted to make the case – to local residents and to the PUC – that it is a public utility corporation, and that the pipeline itself offers a public utility service.

The judges dismissed that claim, resulting in a win for residents who have teamed up with environmental groups to fight the project.

“We’re happy that it proves what we’ve been saying all along,” said Tom Casey, the head of a citizens’ advocacy group in Chester County.

However, Casey, a resident of West Goshen Township, could not officially declare victory.

The case will ultimately be decided by the five-member Public Utility Commission. A PUC spokeswoman said the commission can accept, reject or modify the judges’ decision. Regardless of the outcome, the parties in the case can appeal to the state’s Commonwealth Court.

Jeff Shields, a spokesman for Sunoco Logistics, said the company believes the PUC will “continue to recognize that the proposed Mariner East service will result in numerous public benefits.”

PUC Chairman Robert Powelson was formerly the member of a group of key industry players and business leaders promoting energy projects in the Philadelphia region, leading some advocates to question his objectivity in the Sunoco Logistics case.

In May, Powelson stepped down from the group, he said, “to avoid even the appearance of bias.” Lynda Farrel, executive director of the Chester County-based Pipeline Safety Coalition, believes Powelson should recuse himself from the Mariner East vote. “Removing himself from the energy [team] was a passive way of admitting that he does have a bias,” she said.

When asked by StateImpact Pennsylvania previously, Powelson said he was not sure whether he would recuse himself, and that he was able to do his job by looking at the facts. A PUC spokeswoman said the parties in the case will have through the end of August to file exceptions and replies if they disagree with the judges’ ruling. It is not clear when the five commissioners will take up the issue.

The Mariner East pipeline would bring natural gas liquids developed in western Pennsylvania for delivery to local propane markets and to supply a demand for ethane overseas.

Correction: Sunoco Logistics plans to build 31 pump and valve stations for the Mariner East pipeline, not 18.

Cox v. Sunoco Pipeline

sun_updateThe Washington County Judge has provided an additional stay, or delay, in the consolidation cases to allow for the parties to resolve the cases. The involved four cases with property owner representation by Attorney Mike Faherty have progressed to written resolutions. The property owners agreed to modified and restricted easement language with large financial settlements. Cox v. Sunoco is expected to be fully resolved, without a decision on eminent domain power, by September of 2014.

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Proposed in Lebanon County

Mike Faherty, shown below at right, attended the Lebanon County presentation by Williams Company concerning the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. A company representative indicated plans for 50 foot wide permanent pipeline easements and 75 foot wide temporary easements. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to consider a pipeline proposal. Williams Company is expected to attempt to purchase easements based on linear foot calculations. In truth, property owners at entitled to just compensation as defined by before minus after value as damages per the Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Code.

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Lebanon County residents look over maps showing the route of Williams’ proposed natural-gas pipeline during an open house Tuesday night at Annville-Cleona High School. Many of those attending the meeting expressed concern over the proposed route. (Les Stewart — Lebanon Daily News)

 

Open house at Annville-Cleona draws residents concerned over natural-gas pipeline proposal

Lebanon Daily News
By Les Stewart
 

Some expressed concern for their safety, some sought more information, and some are against the whole idea.

Those were among the reactions during an open house Tuesday night for a proposed natural-gas pipeline that Oklahoma-based Williams wants to build across Lebanon County.

Some 300 people examined maps spread out on tables showing the proposed pipeline route during the meeting at Annville-Cleona High School to see how the proposed pipeline would affect their properties.

Maps of the proposed 27-mile Central Penn South line show the pipeline crossing from Pine Grove Township in Schuylkill County into Lebanon County near Swatara State Park. The pipeline skirts the northern edge of the park in Union Township before doglegging south near Lickdale. From there, it continues south through East Hanover, North Annville, South Annville and South Londonderry townships before entering Lancaster County at Lawn.

The project is part of Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise Project, a 176-mile pipeline that would connect to the company’s pipelines in natural gas-rich northeastern Pennsylvania to its 10,200 miles of distribution pipelines stretching from the Texas Gulf Coast to New York.

Although the pipeline will not go through his property, Grant Taylor of North Annville Township said it is close enough that it has him concerned. “If those lines blow up, and they make a 50-foot crater, the proposed pipeline would be 25 feet away from my house,” he said. “My family’s safety is number one.” Taylor said he was also concerned an old growth of trees near his home would be knocked down to make way for the pipeline. In addition, he worries how the pipeline might affect his water supply.

Patrick Kerwin, also of North Annville, noted the pipeline crossing an area underlain by limestone that is prone to sinkholes. If the pipeline were to break, he said, it would pollute the area’s water supply. He also wondered how the expansion of the Millard Quarry would affect the proposed pipeline. “It just seems like we’re looking for trouble,” Kerwin said. “It seems like there ought to be better route than through unstable limestone.”

Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz said residents should have a meeting with company officials to get more answers. The Tuesday open house, she said, seemed like “a show and tell like we did in first grade.” People have questions about the project, she added. They want to know the pipeline will be safe, and their properties and their water will be safe. “They deserve real answers,” she said.

Litz said she asked company officials for a complete set of maps showing the proposed route and was told it would take several weeks to get them. She said she also asked why the company could not build the pipeline across its existing pipeline. “Why are they cutting across our precious farmland?” she asked. Litz said she has heard stories that banks will not provide mortgages, and insurance companies will not write insurance policies for properties with a gas line running through them.

Williams spokesman Christopher Stockton said the company has heard those stories as well. He said Williams has contacted some of the lenders that people have cited and found that is not the case. He said Williams operates 15,000 miles of pipeline across the country, and “that has not been an issue at all.” Williams is aware of concerns about the path of the pipeline near areas underlain by limestone, Stockton said. The company will conduct extensive studies looking for problem areas to ensure the safety of the pipeline. “At the end of the day, the safe operation of the pipeline is our number-one priority,” he said.

For example, Stockton said, the company goes beyond federal requirements regarding welds on its pipelines. Stockton said there is now more natural gas production in Pennsylvania than in the Gulf of Mexico. In the past, natural gas was transported from the south to the north, he said. The Pennsylvania portion is part of a $3 billion project that will run through five states, he said. “This project turns the pipeline around,” he said, allowing for gas produced in the north to be shipped toward the Gulf Coast.

Robin Maguire of Conestoga and Tim Spiese of Martic Township, Lancaster County, both said they were against the whole idea of the project. Maguire said she believed all the gas would be headed to overseas markets. Spiese said he was concerned the pipeline company will take the land it wants through eminent domain. Lebanon Pipeline Awareness, a local group against the project, set up a table outside the high school and invited those attending the open house to sign a petition asking the county commissioners to hold a public meeting to allow residents to get more answers about the project.

Litz said she would favor that type of meeting.

Eminent Domain Delay

update_sunoco

Cox v. Sunoco Pipeline

Judge Katherine B. Emery of Washington County has issued another Order in the Sunoco Pipeline efforts to use eminent domain for the Pennsylvania Pipeline. On May 23, 2014, the Judge learned that four of the five consolidated cases had progressed to verbal agreements and the fifth case was nearing settlement. She ordered the matter stayed, or delayed, until June 23, 2014. By then the five cases are likely to be settled. Judge Emery thus would not decide the eminent domain case of Cox v. Sunoco. Multiple  other similar cases before her would then be allowed to progress to a decision.


Tentative settlement reached in Sunoco Pipeline eminent domain case

by: Scott Beveridge, staff writer
observer-reporter.com, Published May 27, 2014

A tentative out-of-court settlement was reached between Sunoco Pipeline and a Chartiers Township couple who were attempting to prevent the company from imposing eminent domain to secure an easement to cross their property for a new Marcellus Shale pipeline.

Sunoco attorneys informed Washington County Judge Katherine B. Emery Friday of the pending agreement that would end the case involving Ron and Sallie Cox, who headed a list of more than 40 local property owners involved in similar litigation with the company, the judge’s law clerk said Tuesday. Three other cases were combined with the Cox appeal.

The remaining lawsuits stand in the way of Sunoco completing a 50-mile pipeline from MarkWest Energy’s gas-processing plant in Chartiers to Delmont to hook into a nearly 20-year-old line crossing Pennsylvania into Delaware.

Central to the Cox appeal was whether Sunoco could claim public utility status to acquire easements for the pipeline.

The complicated legal battle saw Sunoco switch attorneys in March in the Washington County case and in a related appeal before the state Public Utility Commission when its former law firm was accused of having a conflict of interest with the PUC. Sunoco, meanwhile, lost an appeal in York County in February involving a related pipeline project there.

Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields didn’t return messages Tuesday. The Coxes and their attorney, Harrisburg attorney Michael Faherty, who represents the Coxes and others involved in the challenges, confirmed there was a oral agreement to settle with the Chartiers couple and three other property owners.

Faherty said the terms of the settlements would not be divulged “for the time being.”

Emery apparently was prepared to rule in the Cox case after Friday’s deadline for Sunoco’s new law firm to catch up on the case.

The company also hasn’t file a petition in Washington County Court to withdraw its case against the Coxes.

Sunoco Denial of Delay

A Sunoco denial of delay includes information on a plan for a second pipeline across Pennsylvania.

Sunoco Logistics: Opposition won’t delay pipeline

By Andrew Maykuth, Inquirer Staff Writer Posted: Philly.com/May 09, 2014

Local opposition to a Sunoco Logistics Partners Marcellus Shale pipeline should not delay the project or add to its cost, the company’s president told investment analysts Wednesday.

Michael J. Hennigan, chief executive of the Philadelphia pipeline company, said the 299-mile Mariner East project, which would transport natural gas liquids on an existing pipeline to port facilities in Marcus Hook, is moving ahead.

“Obviously, whenever you’re engaged in a project, you’re going to run into some local discussions,” Hennigan said. “We’re very confident we can work through those issues with all the townships we’ve impacted.”

The company’s subsidiary, Sunoco Pipeline L.P., has encountered resistance acquiring rights-of-way along a 50-mile portion of new pipeline in Western Pennsylvania. And some residents in West Goshen Township in Chester County have objected to its proposal to expand its Boot Road pumping station.

Hennigan said the company’s experience converting an existing pipeline to transport natural gas liquids from the Pittsburgh area to Ontario demonstrates that the company has a good track record.

Sunoco anticipates the 72,000-barrel-per-day Mariner East project will begin transporting propane this year and ethane next year. The ethane, which is a raw material in petrochemical production, is committed for export to Norway.

Sunoco has also been exploring building a parallel pipeline to transport additional liquids to Delaware County that would begin operations in 2016. That new pipeline would require additional rights-of-way across Pennsylvania.

Antero Resources, a producer in the Marcellus and Utica Shales, recently committed to transport 51,500 barrels per day of ethane, propane, and butane on the new pipeline.

Hennigan says Sunoco needs additional shipper commitments to go ahead with the project, and has extended the “open season” for shippers to sign up. The project is competing with other pipelines that would carry the fuels to the Gulf Coast ports and chemical plants.

Sunoco Pipeline is asking the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to clarify its standing as a public utility, a move that faces legal challenges from property owners along the potential pipeline route.