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Recent Philadelphia Court Decision Regarding Sunoco Pipeline

On February 5, 2016, Judge Carpenter of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County issued a Decision in The Clean Air Council, et al. v. Sunoco Pipeline LP matter. The matter arose from a Petition for Preliminary Injunction and a Complaint filed by the Clean Air Council and some local property owners challenging the Mariner East II pipeline. In September 2015, Sunoco filed Preliminary Objections in response to that Complaint claiming that Plaintiffs lacked the standing to bring suit and that the court lacked jurisdiction for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, that the action was barred by the Eminent Domain Code and must be brought before the Public Utility Commission. Following briefs and argument, Judge Carpenter issued a Decision. The most significant part of the Decision is that Judge Carpenter overruled the bulk of Sunoco's Preliminary Objections which included the rejection of Sunoco's arguments that the Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the suit and that the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear these claims.

As it pertains to the standing of Plaintiffs to bring their claims, the Judge found that the property owned by the property owner Plaintiffs is within the path of the pipeline and that these individuals are subject to a deprivation of their property rights as well as to the alteration of their property. As pertains to the Council, the Judge found that the Council has standing as an association because its members are suffering threatened injury as a result of the Mariner East II Pipeline project.

As it pertains to the jurisdiction of the Court, the Judge found that the pipeline will be engaged in interstate commerce which places it outside the purview of the Eminent Domain Code and the Public Utility Commission; therefore, the Court has jurisdiction.

This Decision is presently significant as it is one of the few cases within the Commonwealth which is not fully supportive of the pipeline. It is anticipated, however, that this matter will be appealed for further review.

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