Sunoco rejects township’s Mariner East complaint to PUC

  • Jon Hurdle
Boris, a German shepherd, walks along a pipeline path in Chester County.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact PA

Boris, a German shepherd, walks along a pipeline route in Chester County, which is often used as a recreational path.

Sunoco told the Public Utility Commission that its actions regarding a section of the Mariner East 1 pipeline does not subject residents of a Chester County township to “clear and present danger.” The township had filed a complaint with the PUC alleging the company violated an agreement over the installation of a valve for its pipeline project.

The company denied there is any danger posed by its failure so far to install a remote-control valve on a section of the existing Mariner East 1 pipeline in West Goshen Township, as it undertook to do in a 2015 settlement agreement with the township.

Sunoco (SPLP) said public safety is currently protected by a manual valve which complies with federal safety regulations, and which it plans to replace with a remote-control valve by March 31.

“SPLP expressly denies that the lack of a remotely operated valve at pipeline marker 236.6 constitutes a clear, present, and ongoing danger to the citizens of the Township,” the company said on March 10. “To the contrary, there is a manual valve at pipeline marker 236.6 which protects the citizens of the Township in the event of an incident.”

Sunoco’s response was contained in a document filed with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, to which the township filed its complaint in mid-February.

The township has also expressed concern over the safety of the planned Mariner East 2 pipeline, now under construction, which would carry natural gas liquids at high pressure through part of the municipality en route to an export terminal at Marcus Hook near Philadelphia.

In a separate initiative, the township last month denied Sunoco permission to build a Mariner East 2 valve, saying the equipment would violate a zoning ordinance. But the company rejected that move, too, saying that as a public utility project, Mariner East 2 can pre-empt local regulations.

In the latest document, Sunoco dismissed the township’s accusation that the company had “delayed, engaged in obfuscation and provided outright false information” on why it had not installed the remote-control valve for more than two years after signing the settlement agreement.

The company said that criticism was a conclusion that was not supported by facts.

In the document, Sunoco also singled out Eric Friedman, an outspoken campaigner for safety of the Mariner East project, whom the company said had “repeatedly obstructed and frustrated” its efforts to install electrical service at the site of the remote-control valve. The site is partly owned by the Andover Homeowners Association of which Friedman is a member.

Sunoco accused the association of “instituting a campaign to prevent the company from providing service on the Mariner East pipelines.”

Friedman said the accusation was false, and he had no idea why the company would make it.

“The company failed to do something that they had agreed to do, and in this document they somehow assert that their failure to do these things was related to something that I did, which is absurd,” he told StateImpact.

Friedman said he is considering his legal options in light of being named in the Sunoco document.

Rich Raiders, an attorney for the association, said there was no basis for Sunoco’s accusation against Friedman or the homeowners association.

“The association is being accused in a public filing of actions that it had nothing to do with,” Raiders said.

The PUC has referred the dispute to an administrative law judge.