Eminent Domain Delay


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.

Sunoco Pipeline Delay

On April 30, 2014 Judge Katherine B. Emery issued an Order which stayed, or delayed, litigation in the consolidated eminent domain cases of Cox v. Sunoco. The Order was in response to a Motion by new counsel recently hired by Sunoco.

Sunoco Pipeline Withdraws the West Goshen Effort and Proceeds with the PUC Effort

Sunoco shifts battle over pipeline to PUC

By Kendal Gapinski, Daily Local News
Posted: 04/29/14
Residents gathered recently in West Goshen, most to voice opposition to a request by Sunoco involving a natural gas pipeline going through the township.
Staff Photo by Vinny Tennis

WEST GOSHEN — Sunoco Logistics has withdrawn its application seeking special exceptions for its pump station on Boot Road and Route 202 that was in front of the zoning hearing board, the township said Tuesday.

Instead, the company indicated it will fight the legal battle over its Mariner East Project above-ground facilities in front of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.


A worker builds part of the Mariner 1 pipeline that will bring in natural gas from the Marcellus Shale to Marcus Hook. (Delaware County Times Staff / JULIA WILKINSON )

The company plans to transport mainly propane and ethane from the Marcellus Shale section of the state in western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook in Delaware County.

According to Township Manager Casey LaLonde, Sunoco removed its application on Tuesday seeking a special exception for a public utility use in a residentially zoned area. The zoning hearing was set to continue on Thursday evening but is now canceled.

Sunoco had filed with the township zoning hearing board in February for special exceptions concerning the height of its combustion system — which was later redesigned to meet current zoning ordinances — and for a special exception for a public utility use in a residential area.

Company spokesman Jeff Shields said in a statement that Sunoco’s withdrawal of its application comes a day after the company notified the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission that it will be filing an amended petition seeking public utility status for its above-ground facilities within 10 days.

He said that this amended petition will assert that Sunoco is already a public utility corporation and its pipeline buildings should be exempt from local regulations.

“Sunoco Pipeline is withdrawing its application before the West Goshen Zoning Hearing Board,” Shields said in a statement. “The Public Utility Commission’s open hearing process, by law, is the appropriate public venue for approval of buildings related to the pipeline.”

He noted that the company was continuing to review the proposed facilities on Boot Road and take input from residents.
Sunoco filed a petition in March with the PUC asking for an expedited review of its application for its above-ground pipeline facilities to be given public utility corporation status. That status would exempt its facilities for its Mariner East Project from local regulations.

Shields said that the amended petition will point out to the PUC that Sunoco Pipeline “is already a public utility corporation, certificated and regulated by the PUC, for intrastate shipment of petroleum products along the Mariner East Line.”

Residents and officials have argued that Sunoco is not a public utility corporation under current law, and therefore must abide by local regulations concerning its pipeline facilities for the Mariner East Project. However, Sunoco maintains it does have this status, citing previous PUC rulings, and that it has tariffs that are regulated by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Additionally, Shields said the amended petition will show that Sunoco Pipeline will make their shipments of propane from its Pennsylvania pipeline available to the public. Sunoco said that it is making propane accessible in response to in-state demand.

Residents said that they were happy to hear that Sunoco had withdrawn its zoning application, but said they were still focused on fighting Sunoco for its public utility status in front of the PUC.
“When I first saw the letter, it was kind of like ‘yes!’” said resident Tom Casey. “But this doesn’t mean that we won. We still have a big fight at the PUC level.”

“We need to get more and more people involved,” he added. “We know where our focus is now.”

PA Pipeline Update

The following news article provides a helpful update, with pictures, of the Sunoco Pipeline proposal for the Mariner East 2 Pipeline, which was recently renamed the Pennsylvania Pipeline

Gas pipeline wants fast track on expansion, pump station, flare stack approval in Pa

Published: http://www.panewz.com

Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 Pipeline project is crossing Pa for Delaware River ship terminal

Company files request to fast track project approval, including construction of pump stations, compressors, flare stacks in suburban neighborhoods

New or repurposed petroleum pipeline would carry ethane, propane, butane from PA shale gas fields to ships for transport to Europe

Pa company touts jobs, revenue from Pa gas; homeowners urge caution in recently suburbanized communities

Pa township zoning hearings will determine fate of pumping stations with gas flaring stacks

Sunoco Logistics, a Philadelphia and Sinking Spring, Pa gas pipeline company is moving into Eastern Pa with approval requests for its Mariner East 2 pipeline project. The company announced the project in a 2013 press release. Read it by clicking here. 

Mariner East 2 will involve new or repurposed gas pipelines to carry ethane, propane and butane from the new Marcellus and Utica shale gas fields of Western Pa, West Virginia and Ohio to a large new gas shipping terminal on the Delaware River.  FERC.Gov photo

Testing, approvals and some construction on the pipeline has begun in Western Pa and Ohio.  In some areas the 8-inch pipeline will be new and in other areas the pipeline will use existing materials.

Many locations for the existing pipeline now include suburban communities that were formerly rural farmland. Candgnews photo


Mariner East 2 begins at Sunoco’s Houston, Pa location (southwest of Pittsburgh) and will terminate at a new Liquified Natural Gas shipping terminal in Marcus Hook, Pa on the Delaware River.

In March, 2014 Chester County, Pa established an interactive website for tracking pipelines in the county and with links about pipeline issues. Link to the new website by clicking here.

Part of this terminal is also in the state of Delaware.  Sunoco Logistics Image Via FERC


One of the largest shale gas producers in Pa, Range Resources, has committed (2012) to shipping gas through the new Mariner East 2 pipeline, according to Sunoco Logistics.

Much of the gas will come from the gas-rich fields of Southwestern Pa.  This photo is from another gas field in NE Pa. William Huston Blog photo


Shipping capacity and volume estimates vary but one project proposal indicates the pipeline would initially carry 50,000 barrels of liquified gas in the former petroleum pipelines to the Marcus Hook refrigerated gas storage facilities, above. Sunoco Logistics image


The Mariner East 2 pipeline terminal in Marcus Hook is being repurposed from oil refinery and terminal to a gas storage and shipping facility.  The liquid gas would be loaded onto ships and transported to European markets.  Skyscrapercity.com photo


Many pipelines across Pa were established with easements to carry petroleum when much of the Pa landscape was farmland.  Today these pipelines pass through suburbanized communities.

Additionally, many residents are concerned about the conversion of the former petroleum pipelines to highly pressurized liquid gas and its combustibility.   In some cases, residents aren’t aware that a pipeline, installed many years ago, runs through their neighborhood.


Sunoco has a long history of pipelines through Pa. This image shows a petroleum pipeline through Chester County in 1946. Notice how most all of the terrainwas farmland. Landowners were not too concerned about the pipelines at the time because of wide spaces between the pipelines and homes.

This section is running through Uwchlan and Upper Uwchlan Townships along what was then Milford Road, now Dowlin Forge Road.  This line, however, is not part of the proposed Mariner East 2 pipeline but runs near it.  Penn State image

Nearly the same scene today shows the concern because of farmland that is now suburbanized communities.  Google maps image


One concern for residents is the pump or compressor stations that must be built along the gas pipelines to push the gas through.  Some of these stations can be quite large, depending upon terrain and distance from the next station.

Others are small. This image of a compressor station is from the Catskill Mountains in New York State.  Catskill Mountain Keeper photo


Another example of a pump or compressor station on a gas pipeline, but smaller.  There appears to be a combustion or flare stack on the left. Navcon.com photo

Pipeline compressor station with portable buildings. 

Another concern for residents is a compressor station that might contain a combustion or flare stack. In times of low pressure, liquid ethane, propane and butane can return to a gaseous state which may require its release into the atmosphere through the flare stacks.

This station with flare stack shows how the flaring pipes can be enclosed so residents do not see or hear the emissions from the flare stack.  

MRW-Tech.com photo

Along the pipeline in West Goshen Township, Chester County, Pa, Sunoco has purchased this (green outlined) 4.2 acre property at Route 202 and Boot Road for a pump station.  It is seeking approval from 31 Pa townships to build 18 of these stations along the pipeline and 17 valve control stations.

This pump station is also proposed for a ‘vapor combustion system’ or flare stack of 34 feet in height. Sunoco wants a variance from West Goshen to exceed the 30 foot building height limit.  The type of flare stack is not known. Sunoco is seeking approval of the zoning variance at an April 3, 2014 meeting at the West Goshen Township building.

Chester County homeowners have organized on Facebook in an effort to have a say in the zoning variance request. Read about their organizationhere.

An article on the group’s initial meeting at the West Goshen Township building on March 27, 2014 by the Daily Local is here.

TetraTech photo via West Goshen Township

 Sunoco Pipeline is also applying for status as a Public Utility in Pennsylvania. See the application and a list of all Pa Townships involved in the Mariner East 2 pipeline expansion by clicking here.

If approved, the pump and valve control station buildings, above, that Sunoco says it would install on the sites, would  be ‘exempt from any local zoning, subdivision and land development regulations’.  

The company is also requesting that the applications be expedited because ‘full potential of Pennsylvania shale gas remains hampered by limited pipeline infrastructure’. The company has requested approval of this legal designation prior to the Public Utility Commission’s meeting of June 19, 2014. 

The company’s application says the buildings and expedited service are needed for the ‘convenience and welfare of the public’.  It also does not want one township’s denial of construction to hold up the entire pipeline.

A judge has already ruled in York County on Sunoco’s Motion for Survey Rights and efforts to condemn property in Eminent Domain. Read about it by clicking here.

PA eminent domain blogger and Harrisburg attorney Michael Faherty has written ten reasons why, he believes, Sunoco will not succeed with the PUC in gaining Public Utility status and the power of eminent domain. Read them by clicking here.

Sunoco Logistics photo

The major concern that residents along the pipeline route have is with safety.  Recent pipeline explosions in the news have caused alarm.

However, statistics show that despite their intrusion into communities, pipelines are the safer method of fuel transport over rail or trucking, according to independent reports which can be found by clicking here. Other concerns are noise, view-shed, and property values for those homes closest to the proposed stations. Protecting our Waters photo

Compressor, pump and valve control stations come in a variety of sizes, according to location and need. Aside from a proposed two modular buildings on each site along the Mariner East 2 pipeline, Sunoco has not revealed the size of the stations requested.

The photos above, from Blogger William Huston in Binghamton, NY, are large footprint compressor stations.

Along with West Goshen Township in Eastern Pa, Sunoco has proposals for pump or valve control stations in Upper Uwchlan Township  where it has existing gas facilities, above, and Wallace Township, Chester County. As of March 28, 2014 no applications for the project from Sunoco had been filed at Upper Uwchlan, said a Township official.

Other stations would be in Upper Chichester in Delaware County, Brecknock and Spring Townships in Berks County, and West Cocalico Township in Lancaster County. Google Maps photos

Pennsylvania has a long history of petroleum and gas pipeline transportation because of its early oil fields in Western Pa and proximity to shipping on the Delaware River.

Initially, pipelines built during World War II carried oil to the large refineries such as Atlantic (1926 photo), above, on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.  Later pipelines carried oil to refineries in Delaware, Marcus Hook and Chester, Pa.  Library Company of Phila photo

This photo of the old Schuylkill River Philadelphia refineries shows the former JFK stadium in the right background. Library Company of Philadelphia photo.

Refineries along the Delaware River are also being repurposed to handle crude oil shipped in trains from new oil fields in the Northern and Northwestern United States. 


Pipeline Easement Settlement


A pipeline company sought a pipeline easement along the edge of a commercial property in Reading, Pennsylvania. The pipeline company offered $35,000.00 for the easement. Mike Faherty provided representation and pointed out that the easement rights interfered with access. During the course of negotiations, the pipeline company obtained approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the pipeline. The matter settled with language to protect the commercial sign for the property and to reduce the rights from multiple pipelines to a single pipeline. The matter settled for $85,000.00.

Disclaimer: case results are dependent on the facts of the particular case. Prior cases do not provide any guarantee or expectation of the outcome of a future case.

Sunoco v. Loper

York County President Judge Linebaugh previoulsy denied the Sunoco request for eminent domain/survey rights. Judge Linebaugh’s later denial of the Motion for Reconsideration occurred on March 25, 2014. The following day Sunoco filed a Praecipe to Discontinue. On April 11, 2014 Sunoco filed a Motion to Strike Praecipe to Discontinue. On April 17, 2014 Judge Linebaugh heard oral argument concerning the Motion to Strike Praecipe to Discontinue. Mike Faherty pointed out five procedural deficiencies in the Motion. He argued that the Request to Discontinue should be denied because Sunoco failed to show prejudice.

He also argued prejudice to the property owners, the Lopers, if Sunoco was allowed to switch its position concerning discontinuance after Judge Linebaugh’s definitive March 25, 2014 Order. Judge  Linebaugh indicted he was not inclined to decide the Sunoco request prior to the appeal deadline concerning Judge Linebaugh’s March 25, 2014 Order. He proceeded with a dictated Order from the bench indicating that Sunoco’s Motion to Strike Praecipe to Discontinue would be taken under advisement.

The significance is that Judge Linebaugh is not now inclined to provide any further Orders before the appeal deadline of approximately April 24, 2014. Thus, Judge Linebaugh’s Orders denying eminent domain/survey rights could become final as of April 24, 2014.

Sunoco Pipeline Eminent Domain Effort Denied Again

againSunoco Pipeline asserted eminent domain power as the basis to request survey authority in York County. President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh, previously denied that effort and pointed out that Sunoco Pipeline, LP, was not a public utility corporation. Sunoco Pipeline requested reconsideration. Judge Linebaugh proceeded with an Order reaffirming his previous opinion. He more fully explained that Sunoco Pipeline was regulated as a common carrier under the Interstate Commerce Act and was not regulated as a “public utility corporation.”  The opinion may be persuasive to Pennsylvania judges considering the various Sunoco Pipeline efforts to proceed with the pipelines referenced as Mariner East Pipeline and the Pennsylvania Pipeline. The opinion reflects a clear strong decision in the favor of Pennsylvania property owners. The decision is expected to become final on or about April 25, 2014.

Sunoco Pipeline, A Common Carrier, is Facing Varied Opposition to its Efforts to Avoid Zoning Laws

An Elaborate Plan by Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. to Transport Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Liquids by Pipeline Across Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook is Running into Resistance.

Published in the Philadelphia Inquirer
Written by: Andrew Maykuth, Inquirer Staff Writer

sunocoAn elaborate plan by Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. to transport Marcellus Shale natural gas liquids by pipeline across Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook is running intoresistance. The company’s subsidiary, Sunoco Pipeline L.P., last month filed an application with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to sidestep local zoning restrictions to build pump and valve control stations in 31 municipalities crossed by the pipeline.

Sunoco Pipeline argues that it is a “public utility corporation,” and that the PUC can exempt the construction of the above-ground structure from local zoning if it determines the buildings are “reasonably necessary for the convenience or welfare of the public.” A pumping station slated to be built on a two-acre site at the corner of Boot Road and Route 202 in West Goshen Township has triggered alarm. Two suburban Philadelphia state senators on Wednesday wrote to the PUC, contending that the exemptions would conflict with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in December upholding local zoning rights over oil and gas activity. “At the very least, we urge you to hold a public hearing in Chester County before any decision is made,” argued Sen. Andy Dinniman (D., Chester) and John Rafferty Jr. (R., Montgomery).

Sunoco Pipeline, which is based in Philadelphia, says it needs to build 18 pumping stations along the pipeline to push propane and ethane extracted from Marcellus Shale natural gas in Western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook, where the company has an export facility. The proposed West Goshen pumping station, housed in a 24-foot-high building, would include a 34-foot-high “flaring” stack to burn off fuel during maintenance procedures. Sunoco also wants to build 17 valve control stations along the pipeline to allow the operators to control pressure remotely.

The PUC action would relieve Sunoco of the need to get separate zoning approval in 31 towns. “We believe that our above-ground facilities are part of the state’s critical energy infrastructure, as with public utilities, and should be treated as such,” said Jeffrey Shields, a Sunoco spokesman. Sunoco has asked the PUC for an expedited decision. Formal protests and petitions to intervene are due by April 21.

The pipeline project, called Mariner East, was announced in 2010 as a means of transporting propane and ethane from the Marcellus Shale region in Western Pennsylvania to the Delaware River, where the materials can be exported. Local officials also hope the pipeline can fuel industrial development. The Mariner project involves converting an existing eight-inch pipeline that carried fuel from Philadelphia refineries to Western Pennsylvania. The project requires about 45 miles of new pipeline in Western Pennsylvania. Sunoco’s efforts to acquire rights of way by eminent domain have run into resistance.

Sunoco last year announced plans to build a second Marcellus liquids pipeline to Marcus Hook that it initially called Mariner East 2 but has since been renamed the Pennsylvania Pipeline. Unlike the Mariner East project, the new pipeline will need new rights of way.

Harrisburg lawyer Michael Faherty, who has fought Sunoco’s efforts to survey the new route, argues that the company is not a “public utility corporation” under the law.