Energy. Environment. Economy.

Independent judges: Sunoco Logistics pipeline can’t bypass local zoning laws

Sunoco Logistics can’t bypass local zoning laws to develop its natural gas liquids pipeline project known as Mariner East. That’s the word from a pair of independent administrative law judges for the state’s Public Utility Commission, or PUC.

Sunoco Logistics wants to build 31 pump and valve stations to keep natural gas liquids flowing along the pipeline’s 300-mile route from western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook.

For months, the company has attempted to make the case – to local residents and to the PUC – that it is a public utility corporation, and that the pipeline itself offers a public utility service.

The judges dismissed that claim, resulting in a win for residents who have teamed up with environmental groups to fight the project.

“We’re happy that it proves what we’ve been saying all along,” said Tom Casey, the head of a citizens’ advocacy group in Chester County.

However, Casey, a resident of West Goshen Township, could not officially declare victory.

The case will ultimately be decided by the five-member Public Utility Commission. A PUC spokeswoman said the commission can accept, reject or modify the judges’ decision. Regardless of the outcome, the parties in the case can appeal to the state’s Commonwealth Court.

Jeff Shields, a spokesman for Sunoco Logistics, said the company believes the PUC will “continue to recognize that the proposed Mariner East service will result in numerous public benefits.”

PUC Chairman Robert Powelson was formerly the member of a group of key industry players and business leaders promoting energy projects in the Philadelphia region, leading some advocates to question his objectivity in the Sunoco Logistics case.

In May, Powelson stepped down from the group, he said, “to avoid even the appearance of bias.”

Lynda Farrel, executive director of the Chester County-based Pipeline Safety Coalition, believes Powelson should recuse himself from the Mariner East vote.

“Removing himself from the energy [team] was a passive way of admitting that he does have a bias,” she said.

When asked by StateImpact Pennsylvania previously, Powelson said he was not sure whether he would recuse himself, and that he was able to do his job by looking at the facts.

A PUC spokeswoman said the parties in the case will have through the end of August to file exceptions and replies if they disagree with the judges’ ruling. It is not clear when the five commissioners will take up the issue.

The Mariner East pipeline would bring natural gas liquids developed in western Pennsylvania for delivery to local propane markets and to supply a demand for ethane overseas.

Correction: Sunoco Logistics plans to build 31 pump and valve stations for the Mariner East pipeline, not 18. 

You can read the ruling here:


  • I hate liberals

    Guess liberals do not want high paying, high tech jobs in the Phila area do they? You are all a bunch of uneducated dumb arse idiots! Phila has the potential to become the second largest refiner of petroleum products next to the gulf coast, retaining high paying high tech jobs that Obama has destroyed and you liberal idiots want to destroy it? You losers have again proven you want stupidity over jobs.

    • Jack Wolf

      Dumb arses in Phila don’t understand that if it’s exported, everyone’s costs goes up. Besides, with climate change already reeking havoc here, we need those supplies for national security concerns.
      Also, there’s no job growth potential in fossil fuels – it’s a 150 year old has-been industry. Green is the way to go for jobs, and since it’s product is freely provided by nature without the need for mining and drilling, it’s cost effective with tremendous job potential. In some states, wind in now less than coal.
      And you should love Obama – on his watch, fossil fuel production in the US has reached record levels. Yea, we’re idiots alright, to have swallowed his line about clean, transitional natural gas. Leaks make it as dirty as coal, its degraded water supplies, and these gas projects aren’t leading us to green energy as promised. We needed a Manhattan project when it comes to minimizing the impacts of climate change, and we only got 6 years of delay at a critical time. Each additional molecule of CO2 is only going to make the misery that much worse. You should love the guy – as far as I can tell, he is a traitor to the American people and their children.

      • I hate liberals

        Another climate change nut job drinking the kool aid. Just great

        • Jack Wolf

          The facts are not in your favor – scientists are merely reading the gauges, and they are all in the red zone. Your hate, which you so proudly display, is interfering with both your eyesight and your judgment. Things are changing, fast.

          • I hate liberals

            Fact is they are not. Storms have actually not become any stronger. they have actually decreased. fact is the avg temp has fallen in the u s by .4 degrees c the past 10 years. Fact is theres been no rise in the earthes temp above the average mean low temp for the past 17 years 11 months now. fact is we have had the coolest summer in the past 10 years. fact is right now the arctic ice coverage is the largest it has been in 10 years for summer and Antarctic is the largest it has been ever! CO2 has never been proven to be a greenhouse gas nor methane and all the computers have been manipulated to have the outcome the scientists have wanted. What they predicted 20, 30 years ago has yet to come true and now they are all back pedaling and coming up with lame excuses just like you. You have yet to state any facts

          • Jack Wolf

            No, you are spouting fox crud here. Suggest you get your science from scientists such as NASA, the National Academies, the Met, The Hadley Ctr. etc. In fact, all the National Academies of Science state that the Earth is indeed warmer and that extreme weather events are on the rise. And, I think we are talking global warming, not just the US weather patterns here. The fact is, the Arctic ice continues to be way below average and it appears that the Antarctic ice is not out of the norm. Rather, the wind patterns have changed, along with freshening water conditions have resulted in the ice. Furthermore, it does not even come close to compensating for the loss of northern ice. You do not have a grasp of scientific facts – would further suggest you read some science journals, such as the ones from AGU. From what I read all those predictions from the 70s and 80s are indeed happening. And they’re happening with greater strength and decreasing return rates. This trend undoubtedly will continue.
            So tell me, how much do they pay now to spread such misinformation? Don’t you have a conscience? Obviously you either don’t have kids, or if you do, you don’t give hoot about them. Otherwise, you would defer to the side of caution.

          • I hate liberals

            Hmmm, all left wing mouthpeices of the Obama adm. No wonder our kids are so messed up just like you left wingers. Explains everything. And btw sir, I have all my info from Climate depot. Reuters, And many other sources. Not left wing mouthpeices of the Obama adm that are taxing and destroying the U S citizens

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