Tension grows over Sunoco's natural gas liquids pipeline to Marcus Hook
The pump station on Boot Road at Route 202 in West Goshen Township has been around since the 1930s. It helps move jet fuel and heating oil through a pipeline that runs beneath the Chester County suburb.
Now, a plan to put in a new pump station to move natural gas liquids through a second pipeline that runs from the Marcellus Shale to Marcus Hook is being met with strong local resistance.
“We’re trying to stop them from implementing a production facility in a residential neighborhood,” said Allen Feinberg. “If it was in a proper zone and in an industrial zone, no one would have fought it.”
Feinberg and his wife Alexandra Alexander live on Mary Jane Lane, which borders the site where Sunoco Logsitics LP — Sunoco’s pipeline arm — plans to build the second pump station on a property that’s currently zoned residential.
While she was never concerned about the original pump station, Alexander said the new one would be about 250 feet from her back door. She’s worried about emissions from a 30-foot flaring unit that would be used to burn off excess fuel during maintenance and about the potential for a major failure.
“I’m right within the blast zone,” Alexander said. “If it blows up, my house goes.”
Company files for exemption from local zoning
About 250 residents showed up at a forum at West Goshen East High School on Tuesday night where 11 Sunoco Logistics officials took questions and gave an overview of the Mariner East project.
“We want to peacefully and cooperatively co-exist,” Hank Alexander, Sunoco Logistics’ vice president of business development told the crowd.
However, residents who have organized in opposition to the plan see the company’s actions as anything but cooperative.
Sunoco Logistics has filed petitions with the Public Utility Commission to be recognized as a “public utility corporation,” allowing them to bypass local zoning laws to build pump and valve stations in 31 towns along the pipeline’s nearly 300-mile route — including West Goshen.
That has raised the ire of two state senators, Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) and John Rafferty Jr. (R-Montgomery), who wrote a letter arguing Sunoco Logistics is ignoring the state Supreme Court’s ruling on Act 13, which “affirm[ed] local governments’ right to regulate pipelines, affiliated pumping and valve stations, and other oil and gas operations.”
As of Monday, the PUC had received 22 letters in support and 17 in opposition to Sunoco’s petitions for exemption. The townships of West and East Goshen, along with four environmental groups, have also filed to intervene in the case.
PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said the case has been referred to an administrative law judge who will convene the attorneys for each party. The groups could ultimately reach a settlement, or the judge could make a recommendation.
Eventually, the commissioners will rule on whether to grant Sunoco’s petitions.
“How is the neighborhood going to benefit from this project?”
The Mariner East pipeline will bring natural gas liquids — propane and ethane — being pulled out of the the Marcellus Shale in western Pennsylvania to the revamped Marcus Hook industrial complex on the Delaware River. Current plans involve exporting much of the ethane to Europe, but Sunoco Logistics said the materials could also be used for local manufacturing and heating.
“We have all this propane that’s essentially under our feet in other parts of the Commonwealth,” said Joe McGinn who manages government affairs for Sunoco Logistics. “If we can get that in a pipeline to the southeast and then distribute it trough local businesses… they can supply local markets.”
That message is not convincing in West Goshen where residents like Lizann Marchetti anticipate dwindling property values and a disruption to their quiet suburb.
“This is negative in many ways, the value to my home, the impact to my neighborhood, the quality of our life,” said Marchetti. “How is the neighborhood going to benefit from this project?”