Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Tension grows over Sunoco’s natural gas liquids pipeline to Marcus Hook

Charlie Stewart, left, director of pipeline operations for Sunoco Logistics, spoke to about 250 residents of West Goshen at a forum Tuesday night.

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Charlie Stewart, left, director of pipeline operations for Sunoco Logistics, spoke to about 250 residents of West Goshen at a forum Tuesday night.

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?”

West Goshen resident Azim Siddiqui speaks at a forum about a proposed pump station for Sunoco Logistics' Mariner East pipeline.

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania

West Goshen resident Azim Siddiqui speaks at a forum about a proposed pump station for Sunoco Logistics' Mariner East pipeline.

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?”

Comments

  • bdwilkin

    NIMBY’s.

  • We the people

    When is our government going to wake up and stop letting our countries resources to be exported as we pay increasing energy cost wile big business has record earnings and we the people continue to struggle in this economy. The big gas companies say they need infrastructure to improve supply flow to marketers and yet as soon as they are given the green light they send it off shore to get max return at the public’s expense. Fight stop the lobbyist and big gas and oil how much must we pay for resources in our own back yard. Record gas,oil and Propane prices and exports at record numbers. The info is out there numbers do not lie just the people controlling them.

    • spence

      True that! Sunoco is currently using the Amerigas pipeline to bring propane into Sinking Spring, PA. From there it is trucked to Marcus Hook, loaded onto barges to meet tankers in the Delaware Bay. Shipped overseas to highest bidder. Go ahead and maximize your profits Sunoco, but stop feeding the public bs. Meanwhile there was a national crisis this past winter with a propane shortage and record high prices.

  • Sandra Bilek

    Well, all I can say is here is what is going on in Medina Township, Ohio. Sunoco Logistics canvassed the Mariner route, found the most gullible Zoning Inspector they could, right here in Medina Township, hoodwinked her with incorrect information on their permit application; that Ethane WAS A PUBLIC UTILITY, and that the building they were going to convert was an addition to an existing building. The permit was applied for and days later, final approval was given. This is in a zoned residential community. Township Trustees were never notified, nor residents before the Zoning Inspector gave her stamp of approval. Then two months later they started building the facility, High Hazard Building in a zoned residential community.
    When residents objected at the Township hearing, the Trustees, Zoning Inspector
    and head of the Zoning Commission told the residents this was a public utility
    and nothing could be done. Then when residents pushed the issue, the township
    hired a lawyer, who gave an opinion that ethane was not a public utility. Then
    the trustees, who obviously want this high hazard facility in a zoned residential neighborhood, which is contrary to our Zoning Regulations, said they could make ethane a public utility, contrary to Ohio State law. Residents continued to object, petitions were garnered with questions demanding to be answered. The Trustees never answered those questions. Residents demanded the Zoning Inspector rescind the permit, which is her duty and her right, under our Zoning Regulations. Residents demanded the Trustees uphold the Zoning Regulations.
    Meanwhile, Sunoco continued to be in non-compliance with the County Building
    Department. An appeals hearing was had where the Fire Chief did not appear at
    that hearing, or any of the trustees, or the Zoning Inspector. Instead the Fire
    Chief sent an email stating he felt a variance should be granted so that Sunoco
    would not have to install a required State Fire Code fire sprinkler/
    suppression system for this high hazard building. Some residents were fortunate
    enough to receive Sunoco’s little pamphlet telling them in the event of an incident, flee on foot, do not create a spark, do not start your cars, do not use a cell phone, do not ring doorbells. County Appeals Building Board granted a variance to Sunoco; based on the Fire Chief’s recommendation, that they do not have to have a fire suppression system. Also Sunoco was granted a variance to apply for the use occupancy permit without said fire sprinkler system. Meanwhile, Sunoco began immediately flaring who knows what at this facility, without a use occupancy permit. Evidently Sunoco is supposed to be notifying residents when they are flaring, but are not. The Fire Department has made comments like, they are not concerned about this high hazard facility; they are more concerned with a propane tank exploding or even at the last trustees hearing, the fire personnel said, this would be the same as someone barbecuing in their yard. Trustees and Zoning Inspector have admitted they have a legal duty to uphold the Zoning Regulations, yet they refuse to rescind this illegal permit that was granted to Sunoco. Again, permit was given to Sunoco under the mistaken belief that Ethane was a public utility, and also Sunoco said only a small addition was going to be built. It wasn’t. This is a huge High Hazard building. The whole prior building was torn down. Trustees invited Sunoco to a Trustees meeting; where apparently erroneous information was given when the question was asked, how often would they flare. Sunoco stated hardly ever. There have been multiple times over the past month where Sunoco has flared, sometimes on and off all day. They are flaring in a driveway that leads to a house that sits behind this high hazard building. When residents called Sunoco, the person there told the residents she doesn’t know why Sunoco employees would have stated that flaring would be done hardly ever; she apparently thinks flaring will be quite a common occurrence. Meanwhile the Akron Regional Air Quality has come out and stated Sunoco does not need a permit to flare, but I guess it is okay for them to occupy that building without an occupancy permit. Akron Regional Air Quality says whatever they are flaring is non hazardous. I’m not so sure. Did you do any testing, Akron Regional Air Quality, or just go on Sunoco’s word? This High Hazard building where they are flaring ethane sits right by high tension wires, highly populated zoned residential community; Electric controls building, and trees and dry brush surrounding this flaring operation that is coming out of some pipe in a driveway that leads to the residence behind this facility. I might also add, that in my numerous phone calls to every agency I could think of, that no one at FERC would talk to me at all as soon as I said Sunoco, ethane pipeline, because as they so aptly put it, ethane is NOT A PUBLIC UTILITY and not under their jurisdiction.
    I think that Sunoco is just coming up against some major flack because people are wising up, so Sunoco thinks they now can make ethane a public utility, just like the
    Medina Township trustees said they could make it a public utility, contrary to
    Ohio state law. PUCO here in Ohio was concerned about Sunoco operating a pumping station so close to those high tension wires, but nothing was done. Medina
    Township Trustees think they have absolutely no legal liability in all of this, because the Assistant Prosecutor, who has previously had his license rescinded, verbally told them so. Where are the protections for these citizens and residents of Medina Township, Ohio? Pathetic example of elected officials NOT DOING THEIR JOBS. One thing Sunoco was truthful about, when the question was posed about the incineration zone if the building exploded, never did get an answer where the incineration zone was, but Sunoco did say the explosion would be catastrophic. Meanwhile Sunoco continues to operate their Industrial process at this High Hazard Building without a use occupancy permit.

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