The York County ruling in Sunoco v. Loper has become a final order. The Judge ruled that Sunoco Pipeline was not a public utility corporation and thus did not have eminent domain power or survey rights.
The York County ruling in Sunoco v. Loper has become a final order. The Judge ruled that Sunoco Pipeline was not a public utility corporation and thus did not have eminent domain power or survey rights.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
Land surveyors plan to visit about 300 properties in nine Columbia County townships in the coming months as an energy company maps a route for a proposed natural gas pipeline. Maps of the proposed line show that it would bisect the county along a north-south route, from Sugarloaf Township north of Benton to Cleveland Township south of Catawissa. Williams Partners, a Tulsa, Okla., energy firm, also plans to build a 25,000-horsepower compressor station somewhere in Columbia County. Preliminary maps indicate it will be located near the county’s northern line.If Williams gets Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval for the 176-mile line through six Pennsylvania counties, it will begin negotiations to buy roughly 55-foot-wide land easements from property owners along its preferred path. If property owners object, Williams will seek the easements through eminent domain in the courts.
“Generally, once the FERC issues a certificate of public convenience and necessity for a project, the company may, by virtue of the authority granted in the U.S. Natural Gas Act, seek authority from the court to obtain the limited rights necessary to construct, operate and maintain a pipeline,” Williams says in its website primer on pipeline construction. Williams hopes to have the $2 billion line flowing with gas by the second half of 2017. It plans to host about a dozen public meetings in May or June in the five counties through which the line would pass.’Be wary’ Columbia County commissioners “would suggest anybody who (gets a letter from Williams requesting a land survey) to certainly get some legal counsel,” said Commissioner Chris Young. Young said if his property was targeted for the line, he would insist Williams pay for any legal bills he might incur for advice. Under Pennsylvania law, landowners can recoup up to $4,000 for legal and engineering fees from a pipeline builder
“But that’s only if a property owner chooses to fight a pipeline, and the pipeline builder goes to court claiming the power of eminent domain”, said lawyer Michael Faherty, who has represented landowners in hundreds of such cases. Faherty, of Lavery Faherty Patterson in Harrisburg, recommends hiring a lawyer to anyone whose property is being eyed by a pipeline firm. “Landowners need to be wary about these companies that come looking to acquire land, they don’t have an obligation to be telling the truth,” Faherty said. “They need to be wary of land agents.”‘Risk of explosion’ Faherty said the price landowners may fetch for an easement is based on the amount of property sought as well as the value of a property before and after a line is built.
With before- and after-pipeline appraisals, landowners can negotiate to recoup a loss in property value due to the line, Faherty said. “Some properties can be harmed by visual impact, harm of access and risk of explosion.” Faherty recommends against immediately getting an appraisal, suggesting a landowner first try to negotiate easements with the help of a lawyer. Just last week, Faherty settled an eminent domain case for a pipeline in the Reading area for $50,000. The company originally wanted to pay $3,000 to use a stretch of a business’ property, Faherty said. He said that easements under commercial properties typically fetch more than residential sites.
Expanding the pipeline as proposed now, the “Atlantic Sunrise” pipeline would cut through Columbia, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Lebanon and Lancaster counties, connecting branches of Williams’ Transco pipeline to the north and south. The project is fueled by the reserves of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale of northeast Pennsylvania that can be routed through the line to customers in Atlantic seaboard states, according to Williams.Williams spokesman Chris Stockton stressed that the company’s plans are preliminary. This means exact locations have not been determined for both the compressor station, a building of electric motors that pushes gas through the line, and the route of the 42-inch line itself.
The number of properties through which the pipeline will pass in Columbia County will “significantly decline” once the route is finalized, Stockton added. Stockton said half the route for a recent Williams project in Susquehanna County and New York was altered after public meetings, at which the firm heard concerns from landowners. Transco is the largest-volume natural gas pipeline system in the U.S., delivering natural gas through a 10,200-mile network.
Recent funding legislation will significantly increase PennDOT projects in the Allentown area as discussed below, and statewide.
By Dan Hartzell, Of The Morning Call
Plans for widening Route 22 through the heart of the Lehigh Valley and other long-term transportation projects are back in gear, regional planners said Monday, thanks to last year’s passage of a funding bill in Harrisburg. Widening 22 between 15th Street and Airport Road has been an on-again, off-again proposition for years, but the anticipated $2.3 billion in new annual state road funding by 2017 gives the project and smaller ones across the Valley renewed impetus. The latest Route 22 estimate puts its widening cost at $183 million.
New items on a local to-do list include resurfacing Route 33 between Interstate 78 and Wind Gap for $85 million; reconstructing the Route 309/Tilghman Street intersection for $48.5 million; rehabbing Bethlehem’s Hill-to-Hill Bridge for $38 million; and resurfacing Route 22 from 15th Street west to I-78, and from Route 191 east to the Easton area 25th Street exit. No start date has been established for any of the projects, which are expected to unfold over a 12-year period from 2015 to 2026.
“We’ll start to lay out the phasing of projects” in the months and years ahead, depending on the availability of funding, said Mike Rebert, district executive for PennDOT’s Allentown-based District 5. Projects selected for a 12-year plan are moved to four-year Transportation Improvement Programs, putting them closer to a start date. The TIPs are adjusted every other year as new information becomes available. More projects could be added to the hopper. A shortage of state money had put many programs on hold. No longer.
“This is the first time in I don’t know how many years that we’re able to talk about new projects” after a chronic shortage of new transportation revenue, said Larry Shifflet, of PennDOT’s central office in Harrisburg. “It allows us to advance things we’ve been planning for years,” Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Executive Director Becky Bradley said after Monday’s regional meeting.
After years of debate, a transportation funding bill passed the state House on Nov. 21. Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, was the only Lehigh Valley region House member to vote for it. Voting no were Democrats Daniel McNeill, Steve Samuelson and Robert Freeman, and Republicans Justin Simmons, Ryan Mackenzie, Julie Harhart, Gary Day, Marcia M. Hahn and Joe Emrick. The measure had passed the Senate the previous day, with Sens. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, and Bob Mensch, R-Berks, voting in favor, and Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, voting no. Gov. Tom Corbett signed it into law, providing billions in extra transportation spending through an increase in a per-gallon gasoline tax and other fee increases. Experts say pump prices could climb 28 cents by 2018 under the law. Foes expressed concern about that and about effects on consumers and the economy.
Some members of the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study — primarily municipal officials who advise PennDOT on roadwork needs within their municipalities to help the state prioritize the work — initially were reluctant to vote to approve the preliminary 12-year list out of concern their projects might be passed over. Rebert assured them PennDOT officials in Harrisburg hope to secure general approvals of “the direction we’re going” at the regional level to keep plans advancing. Though details may change as the years progress, state officials are confident that projects on the TIPs list will go forward.
On February 24, 2014 President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh of York County, Pennsylvania, denied the Sunoco Pipeline Motion of for Survey Rights for the Mariner East 2 Pipeline. The Judge adopted the argument of Lavery Faherty Patterson and ruled:
Defendant argues that Plaintiff is not in fact a “public utility corporation” under the Business Corporation Law. Defendant first argues that Plaintiff is not a public utility regulated by FERC
and is therefore not a public utility corporation under the Pennsylvania Business Corporation Law. The Court agrees. As Plaintiff repeatedly argues, it is regulated by FERC pursuant to
the Interstate Commerce Act, and not the Natural Gas Act, as a common carrier, and not as a public utility. It therefore does not fall within the definition of a public utility corporation entitled to condemn property.
The ruling represents a significant victory for the protection of the property rights of those threatened by the Mariner East or the Mariner East II project.
Mike Faherty appeared in the York County Court of Common Pleas on February 6, 2014, to oppose a Sunoco pipeline (Mariner East) request for an immediate right to survey a Mechanicsburg property. Mike argued that the request should be denied because federal jurisdiction preempted the state jurisdiction or because Sunoco failed to correctly start litigation per Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. In the alternative, Mike argued for denial of the request because: (1) Sunoco is not a Condemnor, (2) Pennsylvania Business Corporation Law does not allow eminent domain for propane or ethane transportation, (3) Federal law requires a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, and (4) State law requires a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. The judge approved Mike’s suggestion that the judge accept written argument over the following two weeks.