Pipeline Archives

Updates with the Atlantic Sunrise Natural Gas Pipeline

On Friday, February 3, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline which will run through portions of Pennsylvania. It is our understanding that the pipeline still requires the issuance of certain permits from the Department of Environmental Protection and the United States Army Corps. Based upon the most recent information issued by Williams, construction is expected to begin on the pipeline in the second quarter of 2017 with the pipeline going online in mid-2018. In light of this information, we anticipate that Williams may soon start to file eminent domain or condemnation actions against those property owners with whom Williams has not yet reached an agreement for the acquisition of the requested right-of-way.

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:

Federal Regulators Reject Pipeline Plan in Oregon

Recently, we posted an article about a lawsuit which was filed against FERC by the Delaware Riverkeeper and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network which alleged, among other things, that FERC has not rejected any pipeline plans submitted to it for review. However, more recently, on March 11, 2016, FERC issued an Order denying the application for a Certificate in connection with the Jordan Cove Energy Project in Coos County, Oregon. The project had proposed to site, construct and operate a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export terminal and associated facilities. In the decision letter, FERC indicated that the project developer had failed to demonstrate a need for the pipeline as the developers had not signed any formal contracts to sell the gas it intended to move to the Asian markets. Further, the developers had failed to negotiate easements with 95% of the property owners along the 232 mile pipeline.

Mariner East 1 Update

Sunoco Logistic Partners has announced that the Mariner East I Pipeline is now carrying both ethane and propane from the Washington County shale fields to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex in Delaware County. Sunoco also announced that the first tanker carrying ethane to Europe departed from Marcus Hook on March 9, 2016.

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.

Lavery Law Attorneys Present at PBI

On February 17, 2016, Lavery Law attorneys Sunshine J. Thomas and Peter J. Carfley presented at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute ("PBI") Eminent Domain Seminar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Additionally, Sunshine and Peter also presented at the same seminar in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania on February 24, 2016. The conference was entitled "The Legal Issues Surrounding Pipeline and Right-of-Way Agreements in the Marcellus Shale Region" with Sunshine and Peter presenting the section on "The Legal Issues Surrounding Pipeline and Right-Of-Way Agreements in the Marcellus Shale Region". Sunshine spoke about the eminent domain condemnation process, the steps that a pipeline company must follow in order to initiate the process, and the defenses available to property owners. Pete spoke about valuation and the Board of View process.

Update on Pennsylvania's Pipeline Task Force

The Pipeline Task Force held its final meeting last week. With that completed, it is now anticipated that the Task Force's report will be delivered to Governor Wolf soon. That report is expected to consist of over 180 recommendations regarding how to prepare for and manage the impact of pipelines within Pennsylvania. It is believed that some of the Task Force's recommendations will include, among other things, increased training for state regulators and emergency responders, creating state level coordination and infrastructure systems and suggestions on how to minimize environmental impacts. Other areas likely to be addressed by the report include agriculture, conservation and natural resources, historical and cultural resources, public participation, and economic development. 

Lavery Law Attorneys present a seminar to property owners affected by pipelines

Attorneys Sunshine Thomas and Peter Carfley attended an October 20, 2015 meeting hosted by the Gas Awareness Drilling Coalition and presented a seminar to local property owners affected by the PennEast pipeline. The seminar was designed to inform property owners about the eminent domain process and about their rights and options in the process. The seminar also provided the landowners with helpful tips to keep in mind when contacted by the land agents.

Cumberland County Judge Rules that Sunoco is a Public Utility

Judge Edward Guido of the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania recently ruled against the preliminary objections which were filed by three land owners in Cumberland County challenging Sunoco's filing of condemnation proceedings to acquire easements across their properties for the Mariner East II Pipeline. Judge Guido determined that the proposed pipeline would provide propane, ethane and other products within Pennsylvania and, therefore, would provide "intrastate" service which is subject to regulation by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. As Judge Guido determined that Sunoco is a regulated entity, he further found that Sunoco is a public entity and therefore possesses the power of eminent domain. This Decision is subject to further appeal by the involved parties within thirty (30) days following the issuance of the Decision.

Developments with the PennEast Pipeline Project

Based upon information recently issued by PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC, it appears that the project is moving forward and that PennEast has or may soon start approaching property owners in an effort to secure the necessary easements for the project. The PennEast pipeline is reported to be slightly over 100 miles of 36 inch diameter pipe which will run from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania to Mercer County, New Jersey carrying natural gas. PennEast has indicated that pipeline construction would likely begin as soon as all required permits and approvals are secured from FERC with a targeted completion date in late 2017.  In light of this information, we expect that property owners in the impacted areas will likely soon start to receive communications from PennEast representatives, if they have not already. These initial contacts are usually either in the form of a home visit or a telephone call and are generally for the purpose of either securing an easement or taking the preliminary steps towards filing a condemnation proceeding.  

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