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Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania Finds in Favor of Sunoco

Recently, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania issued a decision in a case arising from an appeal filed by a number of property owners in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania challenging Sunoco's status as a public utility and Mariner East 2's status as a public utility service. The property owners raised a number of arguments in support of their appeal which included:

1. Sunoco's Declarations of Taking were barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel due to a prior York County decision;

2. Mariner East 2 is not an intrastate pipeline subject to PUC regulation;

3. Mariner East 2 does not provide PUC regulated service;

4. There is not a public need for Mariner East 2.

Following argument on the matter and a review of the record, the Commonwealth Court issued its decision affirming the prior Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas decision which had ruled in favor of Sunoco on the Preliminary Objections which had been filed by the property owners in response to Sunoco's Declarations of Taking. In a split decision, the Commonwealth Court determined that Sunoco is regulated as a public utility by the PUC and is a public utility corporation. The Court further found that the Mariner East 2 contemplated service is a public utility service rendered by Sunoco within the meaning of the Business Corporation Law. This Order is subject to further appeal by the property owners; however, it remains to be seen whether the property owners pursue this matter to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

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