Sunoco shifts battle over pipeline to PUCBy Kendal Gapinski, Daily Local News
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WEST GOSHEN — Sunoco Logistics has withdrawn its application seeking special exceptions for its pump station on Boot Road and Route 202 that was in front of the zoning hearing board, the township said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.”