Energy. Environment. Economy.

Sunoco backs down in pipeline zoning fight

This graphic shows Sunoco's two natural gas liquids pipelines, the Mariner East 1 and the proposed Mariner East 2.

Courtesy: Sunoco Logistics

This graphic shows Sunoco's two natural gas liquids pipelines: the existing Mariner East 1 (blue) and the proposed Mariner East 2 (red).

Philadelphia-based Sunoco Logistics has withdrawn a request with the state Public Utility Commission to circumvent local zoning in order to build pump and valve structures along its 300- mile Mariner East 1 natural gas liquids pipeline.

Late last year Mariner 1 partially came online, and it’s already shipping propane across the state. Approximately 15 pump and valve control structures are needed along the route to keep the liquids flowing. These facilities faced a backlash from environmental groups and communities that were upset Sunoco attempted to bypass local zoning. In October the PUC affirmed the company has “public utility” status and the pipeline is not subject to zoning– however the structures housing its pump stations could be subject to zoning.

Although it’s backing out of the case, Sunoco is still moving forward with the overall project. The company now says it will work with municipalities– either by modifying the structures around the pumps and valves or not building any at all.

“Sunoco Logistics has been committed to cooperating with municipalities to address their respective needs and concerns,” company spokesman Jeff Sheilds wrote in an email.

But some opponents remain wary, like Tom Casey who heads the Chester County Community Coalition– a group that has fought the pipeline.

“It’s an odd request for them, to fight for almost a year and then pull out. It doesn’t make sense,” he says. “Until we get more information, it’s really hard to say where they’re heading.”

Casey now worries Sunoco won’t construct buildings to house the pump and valve stations.

“If they operate this equipment without these structures it exposes them to the elements and that puts everyone at an even higher degree of risk,” he says.

Sunoco has said it would prefer to build the structures.



    The announcement that Sunoco has left the PUC proceedings may sound like good news to most people that have been following and fighting this pump facility, but the reality is slightly more sobering. Our arguments from the beginning have been that they are not a public utility and do not have the power to use eminent domain. Additionally, the pump station does not belong in a highly residential area. This motion to leave the proceedings means that many of the larger groups fighting are now gone. Or more importantly have been taken out of the argument on an ‘official’ level. What this now means is the individual landowners are at risk to possibly be bullied into signing an easement agreement.

    This is not the end of the war, just a movement in a new direction. Sunoco has continuously shown less than stellar methods in their approach to getting what they want. At an Open House in Lebanon County hosted by Sunoco Logistics on Feb. 12th they refused to answer many questions about the project. Additionally they would not allow the public to view the pipeline route on individual properties unless you owned the land. When pressed on why this was their response they stated that the information was confidential. If this was a project by any other “Public Utility” the information would be made public for all to see. They also stated that they have the power of eminent domain. Is this true? Not according to eminent domain attorney Michael Faherty. He was the attorney that was responsible for arguing the Loper case from York County.

    Lebanon County environmental/land use attorney Rich Raiders states; “If the government doesn’t think what you are doing benefits the public, you do not have the ability to invoke eminent domain for the project. Sunoco dropped their petition before the PUC to be considered a public utility. Once they removed themselves from the argument at that level they are now engaged in individual contract negotiations with landowners, without the power of eminent domain.”

    3cCoalition is working on putting together a series of informational sessions here in Chester County for the public to come and get learn about what their rights are for eminent domain issues. Please be patient and we will let you know soon on when these events will occur.

    Your continued support in this fight is crucial to achieving a victory in the larger war to safeguard our rights as landowners in Pennsylvania. Please go to our website to contribute.

    Thank you!

  • kenneth weir

    I smell a huge ,stinking rat. I don’t trust these multinational corporate marauders. They have probably done this tactic many, many times before in third world countries. We now have the target on our backs!

  • AlSever

    Philly does NOT need fuel. Global Warming will keep their citizens comfortable.

  • Bob Dobolino

    What happened to being energy independent guys?

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