Uncle Sam has finally weighed in, and delivered a long-overdue STOP to the domestic petrochemical pipeline industry. Sunoco claimed it was political, maybe it was. But we'll take a favorable outcome anywhere we can get them. The turning point was apparently a change of heart by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It has the potential for serious financial repercussions if goes on too long, figures varying between $800 million and $2.6 billion. Another source cites the loss at $20 million per day. As of January 2, investors have the option of pulling out.
Ouch, and OUCH!
What we find interesting is Sunoco's response:
This doesn't leave much to misunderstanding:
Whether Sunoco's cognitive dissonance leads to action remains to be seen...but we can only hope. It's almost certainly face-saving political bluster. Should Sunoco, et al go full-stop stupid against Uncle Sam, it'll end badly.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, what has our old pal Jeff been up to? Recently he presided over awarding one woman $5000 of free fuel from Sunoco. Apparently that's Sunoco's idea of winning the hearts & minds. If so, that doesn't even rise to the standard of weak.
Things aren't likely to change during the remainder of Obama's lame duck session. However, when Trump takes the baton, all bets are off (more). So, we don't expect to see any dramatic changes before the first quarter of 2017. In the meantime, Sunoco continues to bleed money while native americans continue their fight, and support continues to grow both inside and outside of the native american community.
From Eastbootroad, enjoy the holiday season. We'll be looking at native american crafts for possible gifts this year.
December 12, 2016
By Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News
One of the pump stations owned by Sunoco Logistics off of Route 322 near Butler Road in West Cornwall Township.
Daniel Walmer/ Lebanon Daily News
One of the pump stations owned by Sunoco Logistics off of Route 322 near Butler Road in West Cornwall Township.
A Lebanon County judge has reversed the West Cornwall Township Zoning Hearing Board’s decision on a natural gas liquids pump station, bolstering efforts to challenge the public utility status of a Sunoco Pipeline.
The case centers around a pump station Sunoco built in 2014 off Route 322 near Butler Road, but the dispute over its construction has larger implications.
That’s because the issue of whether Sunoco is a public utility is critical to the company’s plans to build the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline through much of Pennsylvania. The company is claiming a right to use eminent domain to construct the pipeline over the objections of property owners because it is a public utility.
Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas President Judge John C. Tylwalk acknowledged in his Nov. 21 ruling that the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has ruled Sunoco to be a public utility for the purpose of eminent domain takings. However, he said there are different considerations for whether a business is a public utility under zoning law, and those considerations have not been properly examined.
“Due to the (Zoning Hearing) Board’s assumption of Sunoco’s status, we have no way to determine whether their finding that Sunoco is a public utility was based on substantial evidence,” Tylwalk wrote. “For this reason, we agree that a remand is necessary for the Board to take such evidence.”
In remanding the case, he asked the zoning hearing board to hear evidence about Sunoco’s public utility status.
The pump station at issue in the case was actually built in September 2014 along the already existing Mariner East 1 pipeline. However, it has remained the subject of a convoluted two-year legal struggle.
After a challenge by anti-pipeline group Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County, Sunoco surrendered its initial building permits. Instead, it applied for and received new permits in May 2015 from the Lebanon County Planning Department allowing the structure under a public utilities exemption.
Concerned Citizens and several township residents then challenged this permit on the basis that Sunoco hadn’t proven it is a public utility.
That issue was never directly reached during a September 2015 hearing, however. The zoning board sided with Sunoco on a preliminary matter, saying the appellants didn’t have standing because the pump station does not have a significant enough impact on their properties. Concerned Citizens and three township residents filed an appeal to the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas.
In his Nov. 21 ruling, Tylwalk said appellants may present additional evidence about their standing to pursue their appeal at to the zoning hearing board “since they were unaware that standing would be contested until the time of the hearing before the Board.”
Pam Bishop, a member of Concerned Citizens and one of the appellants, said she was pleased with the decision. After two years, it should finally give them a “fair chance to prove our case” through a hearing before the zoning board that will include an examination of Sunoco’s claim to be a public utility, she said.
Bishop is also confident that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will ultimately side against Sunoco’s public utility claim for the purposes of using eminent domain to construct the Mariner East 2 pipeline, she said.
Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said the company will not comment on the pipeline decision because it involves a pending matter.
This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the Lebanon Daily News.
November 28, 2016
October 19, 2016
A new coalition formed by landowners in Pennsylvania wants to strengthen private property rights and lobby lawmakers to limit the use of eminent domain by natural gas pipeline companies working across the state.
Protect Our Pennsylvania organized its first rally at the state Capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday. It issued an invitation to supporters on social media, indicating the rally would be a public meeting to strengthen its mission of "individual rights to private property and public safety over statewide abuse of eminent domain."
The coalition cited landowners' struggles with Sunoco Logistics Partners LP's Mariner East (ME) 2 pipeline and said it wants eminent domain to be applied more narrowly as more midstream companies work to build-out infrastructure to serve Marcellus and Utica shale production.
The 350-mile ME 2 would transport ethane, butane and propane from processing and fractionation facilities in Eastern Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near Philadelphia for storage, processing and distribution to domestic and international markets. ME 1 is fully operational, delivering ethane and propane within the state from Western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook, and the company is gauging interest in a third pipeline that would run parallel to ME 2 and be constructed at roughly the same time (see Shale Daily, Sept. 15, 2015).
State courts have ruled against landowners that have challenged the pipeline (see Shale Daily, Feb. 26). Opponents argue ME does not have eminent domain powers as an intrastate system because it's been designed as an interstate pipeline to primarily serve overseas and out-of-state markets.
Sunoco has claimed in court that it has a right to condemn property because of its status as a regulated public utility under state law. At trial, it has produced orders and certificates of public convenience relating to ME. It also has argued that the project would have a major economic impact in the state.
Protect our Pennsylvania said it has started conversations with lawmakers about its goals. The coalition has been formed at a time when gathering and transmission pipelines are facing growing opposition across the country. In addition to the infrastructure that has already been built or expanded to handle more shale gas, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has said it expects 25,000 miles of gathering lines and up to 5,000 miles of transmission lines to be built in the state over the next decade.
October 19, 2016Ed note - the only online site for Protect our Pennsylvania we found so far is this facebook account.
For all the crowing Sunoco's been doing over the years, it seems they'd be pretty careful about making sure nothing goes wrong.
When working in areas where there's hazardous energy, the possibility of unplanned machine startup or operation, energization and more, OSHA makes it very clear the business operation has a responsibility to ensure safety for everyone present. The "Lock Out, Tag Out" (LOTO) procedure is intended to physically lock & disable equipment, or otherwise ensure the work environment is, and remains, safe. The use of actual key or combination locks are often used to physically prevent an outside party from activating machinery, circuits or otherwise triggering a hazardous event. The workers usually possess the keys, and often there's more than one...so one person acting alone can't cause an accident.
It now looks like Sunoco may have put their own personnel in harm's way, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)'s report — (local copy). The PHMSA report specifically states Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. (Sunoco) intentionally ignored or bypassed safety measures. OSHA weighed in, stating "Sunoco Logistics failed to follow its own written lockout/tagout procedure to ensure all energy sources were isolated before work began on Nov. 10, 2015. "
We'd love to be a fly on the wall at the next shareholder's meeting. They can't blame that on a washed out bridge or other act of God, the trail leads right back to Sunoco.
There's another detail most media sources seem to have missed. That valve was containing 400 pounds per square inch (PSI). That might seem like just a number, but it certainly isn't. That's well past the pressure necessary to inflict lethal injury.
If you've ever been to an automotive garage that changes tires, you might have heard the newly-installed tire make a bang like a gunshot while they're filling with air. This is because new tires sometime sticks on the inside track of the rim, and air pressure forces it out to the outer sealing surface, called the "bead". It's only moving about 2-4 inches, but very fast. That's just 30 PSI. Increase the pressure or the area, the force skyrockets.
Car tires are typically inflated in the 30-40 PSI range. And that pressure translates into power (force) in a simple equation: force equals pressure times area. The pressure notation even says this. At 30 PSI, there's 30 pounds per square inch. Suppose it's 30 PSI acting on a square foot or two, like a typical tire sidewall. That's 144 square inches to one square foot, making the force 4000+ pounds per square foot. That's two tons of force.
Truck tires are pressurized above 100 PSI, and easily deliver lethal force if they explode near bystanders (OSHA video). This sometimes happens with multi-piece truck rims, and was a serious enough hazard that two-piece rims are very seldom used today. Sunoco's valve in question had 400 PSI. That's four times higher. Leaking at that pressure level, the pressurized substance (apparently nitrogen, in this case) can actually penetrate human skin, causing injection.
If they aren't vigilant enough to protect their own, we seriously doubt outside persons (like property & landowners) are going to fare much better.
So, the next time Sunoco has another one of their pep rallies and expects everyone hold hands and sing Kumbaya, whip out a copy of PHMSA's report. Make sure everyone sees it. Hand out extra copies, especially to any attending members of the media.
If you happen to see our old pal Jeff, ask him to recite their safety credo, and LOTO. In the meantime, and in the interests of providing a workable solution, we offer this helpful tidbit: Safety coloring pages. Click on the fire extinguisher to see the full collection. And here's an online safety resource that's right up Sunoco's alley. Apparently our colleagues at Sunoco need to review them. Crayon time, folks.
Example - Sunoco’s Jeff Shields, Guest Column in the Cumberland Sentinel, Jan 10, 2015 (Link): “We have a robust integrity and safety program that is audited by federal regulators at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.”
November 27, 2016
We recently received this note from Middletown Coalition for Community Safety (MCCS), we're reprinting it below along with their press release (link to pdf file).
You can get details and answers from their social media site (link).
Nov 15, 2016
U.S. fines Sunoco for pipeline safety lapse after valve incident injures workers
November 3, 2016 | 6:11 PM
By Jon Hurdle
Sunoco’s pipeline division suffered the latest blow to its safety reputation on Thursday when the federal government proposed to fine the company $251,800 for an accident in which five workers were hurt during maintenance of a valve in Wortham, Texas last year.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said Sunoco Logistics failed to properly train workers to maintain the valve on a crude oil pipeline, and their work on it resulted in failure of the valve, damage to piping, and injury to the workers, who were disassembling the valve. The incident also led to a minor spill of crude oil.
The agency, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, said the company’s procedure for repairing the valve failed to isolate the energy source – in this case, crude oil – exposing the valve to high pressure that led to the incident.
“The … process failed to ensure adequate steps were taken to identify and mitigate the hazard by isolating all energy sources,” the agency said in a notice of probable violation and proposed civil penalty following the incident in November, 2015.
It also said Sunoco failed to have a formal written procedure for the operation and maintenance of the 10-inch flow-control valve involved in the accident.
Sunoco Logistics, which plans to build the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline across southern Pennsylvania, has been accused of lax safety standards after a series of incidents, most recently the rupture of a pipeline which spilled an estimated 55,000 gallons of gasoline into a Lycoming County creek in October.
Data from PHMSA show the company had 271 incidents from 2006 to 2016, leading to 27 federal enforcement actions.
Since 2010, Sunoco has seen some 200 crude oil leaks, more than any of its competitors, according to a report by the Reuters news service, based on government data, in September.
Scrutiny of the company’s safety record has tightened recently because it is due to operate the controversial Dakota Access pipeline which has been opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe amid fears that its sacred sites will be damaged and its water supplies tainted by the pipeline.
In Pennsylvania, the new federal action fueled public concerns about the safety of Mariner East 2, said Lynda Farrell, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Coalition.
The penalty “reaffirms citizens’ concerns by not only citing Sunoco’s failure to provide written procedures for operation and emergencies but also Sunoco’s failure to follow protocol in Texas,” Farrell said in a statement.
She said the coalition has followed the federal investigation into the Texas incident for its relevance to Sunoco’s safety record.
Jeff Shields, a Sunoco spokesman, said the company would have no immediate comment on the PHMSA fine.
The company has 30 days to pay the fine or contest the order and ask for a hearing, said Damon Hill, a spokesman for PHMSA. Once the order is finalized, Sunoco will have 20 more days to pay the fine or ask for reconsideration.
November 4, 2016
November 1, 2016
Norway’s biggest bank, DNB, and the country’s huge sovereign wealth fund known as the Oil Fund are both involved in the construction of a highly controversial oil pipeline project in the US. Norway’s Sami Parliament is now calling on the Oil Fund to withdraw its investments in the companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline Project, which many claim threatens the health and human rights of indigenous people living in the area.
Oil from Statoil shale projects in North Dakota is set to flow through the pipeline if it gets built. It's due to run from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Chicago, Illinois.
Norway’s state-owned oil company Statoil, meanwhile, has major ownership stakes in the shale oil coming out of the Bakken formation in North Dakota that’s due to flow through the pipeline. Statoil bought the Brigham Exploration Co in 2011, and thereby took over what Statoil called Brigham’s “strong position” in the “attractive” Bakken (named for a Norwegian immigrant in North Dakota) and Three Forks projects. Both are considered to be among the largest “oil accumulations” in the US.
Statoil has tried to distance itself from the pipeline project, though, telling newspaper Aftenposten on Monday that there’s “no connection between Statoil and this oil pipeline. We have activity in the area, but no relation to the protests going on.”
DNB towers over its competitors, dominates the market in Norway and announced another quarter with strong profits. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no
There’s no question, though, that DNB is heavily involved after lending around NOK 2.8 billion to the pipeline project. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Monday night that DNB is among 38 banks taking part in the project that’s estimated to cost a total around USD 3.7 billion (NOK 30 billion).
The Dakota Access Pipeline Project is itself owned by eight oil and energy companies including Sunoco Logistics, Phillips 66 and Energy Transfer. Norway’s Oil Fund has in turn invested billions in the companies, which are responsible for the pipeline’s construction and operation.
The controversy is over how the pipeline will run under not only sacred burial sites at the Sioux nation’s Standing Rock Reservation but also pose a hazard to their groundwater and drinking water. The Sioux are furious that not only were they not consulted on the huge project that will rip through what’s supposed to be their land, their concerns have not been heard. The Sioux and many others have held massive demonstrations against the project that police have tried to put down.
“We are the ones suffering here,” anti-pipeline activist Kandi L Mosset, also known as “Eagle Woman,” told NRK. “This has become a war zone. They (police and, allegedly, people hired by the oil companies) have attacked us, used pepper spray against us, they have sent in the National Guard against us, and we’re unarmed. They should be ashamed of themselves that they are earning money at the expense of our suffering.”
Charges of human rights violations
That’s led to charges that the pipeline project is violating the Sioux’ human rights. “The United Nation’s special envoy on indigenous people’s rights has also reacted to this,” Beate Sjåfjell, a law professor at the University of Oslo, told NRK. “There are several aspects of this case that raise serious questions.”
Sjåfjell, who specializes in regulation of Norwegian and multinational companies and their reputations, said there are other problems with the pipeline project. “Here we see that there’s a danger for serious environmental hazards and violation of human rights, also that the demonstrators’ rights to freedom of expression have been violated,” Sjåfjell said.
Sjåfjell further claimed that the pipeline project defies the international climate agreement struck in Paris about limiting global warming to 2 degrees and preferably 1.5 degrees: “When we know that most of the known fossil fuel reserves must be left lying underground, it should be quite clear that companies shouldn’t enter into projects with unconventional methods such as fracking with serious local environmental risks.”
Oil Fund mum
A spokesman for the Oil Fund, which has invested around NOK 6.7 billion in some of the companies involved, refused to comment on the individual investments. “But we expect that companies in which we invest respect human rights and keep them in consideration in their business activities,” he told Aftenposten.
Several indigenous Sami people from Norway have traveled to the US to take part in the pipeline protests. Now they’ve also written a letter to the Norwegian Finance Ministry’s ethics council that monitors Oil Fund investments. “We’re asking the ethics council to evaluate whether the Oil Fund should withdraw its investments in companies tied to the oil pipeline,” Silje Karina Muotka of the Sami Parliament told Aftenposten.
The Oil Fund has stressed that it has no direct interest stakes in the pipeline project, rather in the companies owning the project. The council responded that “responsible management” is an important part of the Oil Fund’s work.
DNB ‘can understand the concerns’
DNB’s stake in the pipeline project is more direct and “worthy of criticism,” Sjåfjell said. “This issue illustrates the banks’ power very well. It’s the banks that have made the pipeline project possible (by financing it).”
She thinks DNB is heading into an ethical crisis over the pipeline project. “DNB is directly involved in a case where questions are being raised over whether the rights of indigenous peoples have been ignored and there’s danger of human rights violations, in addition to serious environmental damage,” Sjåfjell said. “DNB should have conducted a proper investigation of the project beforehand, and it looks like they didn’t.”
DNB spokesman Even Westerveld said the bank understood that such projects can spark concern. “That’s why it’s so important that projects follow all the rules, laws and conventions, and not least have good dialogue with everyone affected,” he told NRK.
Westerveld claimed it is more environmentally friendly to transport oil by pipelines instead of railroads or tanker trucks. He also said companies financed by DNB are not supposed to violate human rights.
“DNB has so far been unable to confirm that the project violates human rights,” Westerveld said. “We nonetheless are looking at the claims against the companies seriously.” He said DNB has been in touch with its borrowers over the past six weeks and posed many questions about the social and environmental aspects of the pipeline.
Norwegians ‘should be furious’
Asked whether DNB had contacted the Sioux nation, the bank’s spokesman responded that “we are a bank and we lend money to companies that are behind this project. It’s important that we relate to our customers and make sure they respect rules and laws. It’s others’ roles to take direct contact with those involved.”
Matthias Åhrén, an assistant professor at the University of Northern Norway in Tromsø, thinks the companies involved have violated the Sioux’ right to practice their culture, their rights to health and clean water and their right to being informed and consulted about the project on their reservation land.
Sjåfjell thinks the Oil Fund should either pressure the companies in which it has invested to withdraw from the project or that the Fund itself should dump its stock in the companies. “Norges Bank (Norway’s central bank, which controls the Oil Fund) should have evaluated whether this pipeline project can be defended based on its financial risk,” she told NRK.
Mosett, the Sioux activist, told NRK that “the Norwegian people should be furious. They should know where the money for their pensions is coming from.”
November 2, 2016
October 31, 2016 | 5:11 PM
By Susan Phillips
Anti-pipeline protesters staged events across the country to show solidarity with Native Americans opposing the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania
Eminent domain attorneys and their clients battling new pipelines in Pennsylvania courts feel they may have a new weapon in the fight against controversial projects like Sunoco’s Mariner East. The recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to toss out industry-friendly provisions of the state’s oil and gas law included eminent domain for gas storage.
All across the state, private landowners have fought eminent domain takings for pipelines, arguing that the lines do not serve the public good. But they haven’t had much luck in convincing county judges, who have in all but just a few cases, ruled against landowners.
In September, a majority of the Supreme Court ruled that using eminent domain for underground gas storage violated both the federal and state constitutions. The court wrote that the public was not the “primary and paramount” beneficiary, as the state had claimed.
“Instead, it advances the proposition that allowing such takings would somehow advance the development of infrastructure of the Commonwealth. Such a projected benefit is speculative, and, in any event, would be merely an incidental one and not the primary purpose for allowing these takings,” wrote Justice Debra McCloskey Todd for the majority.
The decision was cheered by lawyers like Alex Bomstein, an attorney for the Clean Air Council challenging eminent domain takings by Sunoco Logistics for the Mariner East 2 pipeline. Mariner East 2 will carry natural gas liquids from western Pennsylvania to Delaware County where it will be shipped to Scotland to make plastics.
“Mere economic benefit is not enough,” said Bomstein. “Right now in Pennsylvania nobody is starving from lack of ethane. Nobody is crying in the streets for more butane. There is no apparent public need for these things and that’s demonstrated by the fact that [the gas products] are being exported.”
Sunoco Logistics would not comment on the Supreme Court’s decision for this story but the company says some of the fuel will be offloaded in Lebanon and Berks counties, thus serving the public good by addressing potential shortages and insuring an adequate supply of heating fuel for the winter months. Pipeline opponents say that’s a ruse used to convince the courts that the pipeline will serve a public good.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission granted Sunoco a “certificate of convenience,” which designates it as a public utility and allows the company to argue for eminent domain. A spokesman for the PUC said the agency is “not in a position to speculate about the future impacts of the court’s decision,” regarding gas storage, and how that may play out regarding pipeline cases.
Although the legislature gave the PUC authority to designate pipeline companies public utilities, it did not grant them authority over where and how the pipelines are installed. Once a company receives a certificate of convenience, it’s essentially a blank check to develop its infrastructure, utilizing eminent domain to seize land if negotiations with landowners over compensation are unsuccessful. The Department of Environmental Protection has oversight when it comes to earth-moving and water-crossing permits, which is practically the only chance for the public to weigh in on how the project is implemented.
The PUC says its decisions regarding certificates of convenience are public and transparent. And it insists it has no role in how the courts decide issues of eminent domain. But Sunoco has argued, and the courts have ruled, that pipeline companies can take land through eminent domain based on decisions made by the PUC. The courts have used the certificates of convenience, issued by the PUC, as conclusive evidence for allowing the exercise of eminent domain.
This puts landowners in a difficult position when it comes to challenging the original PUC decision, which they must do within 30 days. For example, if, as in the case of Mariner East, the certificate of convenience was issued for Washington County, it would be difficult for a landowner 300 miles away in Delaware County to know that the PUC’s decision may result in a new pipeline coming through their backyard several years later.
Eminent domain attorney Rich Raiders, who represents a number of landowners who have cases with Sunoco, says his clients feel left in the dark on these decisions, and that the deck is stacked against them and in favor of pipeline operators.
“These guys are used to going to the PUC, and they go in and do what they want and nobody notices,” said Raiders. “And by the time the citizen knows it happened it’s already too late.”
The PUC says their decisions are made in public, broadcast online and are based on facts and laws. PUC spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen says the commissioners and staff take their responsibilities toward the public seriously.
“As you well know, the Commission is an independent, neutral agency – tasked with ensuring safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates, and balancing the needs of consumers and utilities,” Hagen-Frederiksen wrote in an email. “Anyone has the right to disagree with a Commission decision; that’s fair, and that’s part of the process – but there is absolutely no basis to attack the Commission’s impartial approach to any case, and those kinds of claims are unfair.”
Attorney Rich Raiders says landowner notification of potential disruption by pipeline builders during the PUC’s process would help reduce the perception of bias. That’s something that would have to be taken up by the legislature.
In the meantime, Raiders has already used the Supreme Court’s decision regarding gas storage to file new briefs in some of his cases pending in common pleas courts across the state. He says the hot question for him and the landowners is whether the Supreme Court decision about gas storage could be applied to future decisions about natural gas pipelines.
“I don’t know, but they left a big fat opening for what exactly is public use and public benefit, he said. “Justice Todd raised a big red flag and that’s what they’re interested in hearing about.”
October 31, 2016
Unanimous ruling against seizing private land for gas storage has potential implications for at least one major proposed fracking-related pipeline across the state.
By Zahra Hirji
Oct 18, 2016
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has unanimously ruled unconstitutional a section of state law that lets companies seize private land for certain natural gas projects, with potentially major implications for one of the biggest proposed pipelines in the state.
Under the original rule, passed in 2012, any company has the authority to take private land through eminent domain for the purpose of storing natural gas underground.
The justices decided on Sept. 28 that this section of the law unconstitutionally lets private companies profit from taking people's land with no direct or obvious benefit to Pennsylvanians. The oil and gas companies argued the projects could benefit the state by creating new jobs, for example, but the justices were not convinced.
"The Commonwealth does not claim, nor can it do so reasonably, that the public is the 'primary and paramount' beneficiary when private property is taken in this manner," the justices wrote. "Instead, it advances the proposition that allowing such takings would somehow advance the development of infrastructure in the Commonwealth. Such a projected benefit is speculative, and, in any event, would be merely an incidental one and not the primary purpose for allowing these types of takings." The high court's decision reversed a lower court's ruling that upheld this part of the rule.
This decision is the latest victory for property rights owners and environmental activists who are increasingly challenging energy companies nationwide as they seek to use eminent domain for pipelines and other large infrastructure projects. Earlier this year, the Georgia legislature passed a bill that would have stalled construction on Kinder Morgan's Palmetto Pipeline until 2017 due to property rights concerns; before the bill was signed into law, the company suspended construction on the pipeline.
"Every time you have a win, it just adds to the case law," said Jane Kleeb, founder of the grassroots advocacy group Bold Nebraska, which led the successful opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. "It adds hope for landowners."
Pennsylvania is the second-largest producer of natural gas and is in the middle of a pipeline boom to move much of the state's fracked gas and drilling byproducts to East Coast and international markets. Companies are proposing at least a dozen gas-related pipelines, many with plans to cross private land.
Pennsylvania pipeline projects being proposed
The recent decision dealt only with underground natural gas storage, but it could have repercussions for the way eminent domain is applied to one of the biggest proposed pipelines in the state: Sunoco Logistics' Mariner East 2 project.
The Mariner East 2 would carry natural gas liquids like butane, ethane and propane. They are byproducts of the drilling boom used for plastics, home heating, lighting fuel and more. When it comes to eminent domain, state regulators have jurisdiction over natural gas liquids pipelines, as they do with gas storage. The other 11 proposed pipelines would likely not be affected by this ruling because they ship natural gas, putting those pipelines' use of eminent domain under the purview of federal regulators.
The $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 project would secure Pennsylvania's position as an East Coast hub for natural gas liquids distribution. It's an expansion of Sunoco Logistics' Mariner East 1 pipeline, which sends propane across Pennsylvania and ethane to a terminal near Philadelphia for export to Europe. That original line runs about 300 miles, from eastern Pennsylvania to outside Philadelphia. If built, the new project would mostly follow a parallel route, but would start further east in Scio, Ohio, and it would have about four times the capacity of Mariner East 1.
The company faces many lawsuits by landowners over its use of eminent domain. And this new ruling could bolster the claims of the opponents.
"We have a unanimous court that just struck down, without blinking, eminent domain powers for oil and gas issues and the idea that there's some public purpose [for these projects] because we are creating jobs," said John Smith, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers. Regarding energy companies' future reliance on eminent domain, Smith added, "I'm sure there's a bit of nervousness."
Sunoco Logistics declined to comment on the recent court decision and its implications for Mariner East 2.
In Pennsylvania, land can only be taken through eminent domain if the project provides a so-called "public use." The project "must be for the primary and paramount benefit of the...Pennsylvania public," according to Alex Bomstein, a lawyer with the Pennsylvania-based environmental group Clean Air Council.
For natural gas storage projects, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices ruled that providing jobs or spurring local development isn't enough to automatically qualify as "public use."
Now the question is whether the justices will take a similar hard line with pipelines.
We may not have to wait long to find out. Rich Raiders, a Pennsylvania eminent domain lawyer, said "there are dozens of those cases in the hopper." Raiders is representing plaintiffs in at least two of those lawsuits.
In July, a state appeals court ruled against some property owners whose land was taken through eminent domain for Mariner East 2. The landowners claimed the project offered no benefit to Pennsylvania residents and the company should not have been allowed to use eminent domain. The court did not agree.
But if this case or any of the others on Mariner East goes to the state Supreme Court, the recent ruling suggests the justices may be more willing to side with landowners, said Raiders, who was not involved with either the July or September lawsuits.
Raiders said he hopes the court answers whether it is in the public good to build a gas pipeline with the end goal of sending that fuel out of state, rather than for Pennsylvania use. (In Raiders' perspective, the answer is "no.")
The recent lawsuit reviewed by the state Supreme Court, Robinson et. al. vs. Commonwealth, included several plaintiffs—six Pennsylvania townships, a few officials from the related townships and the environmental group Delaware Riverkeeper Network. The defendants included the state Public Utility Commission (PUC), Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Office of the Attorney General; energy companies filed briefs in support of the defendants. (The Robinson Township, which originated the case, dropped out before the ruling.)
"The PUC has reviewed the Court's ruling and accepts the decision without reservation," state utility regulators wrote in a statement following the decision.
The DEP told InsideClimate News it is reviewing the decision. The attorney general's office did not respond for comment.
The justices struck down several other sections of the 2012 law, called Act 13. They invalidated a restriction on what doctors can tell patients being treated for the effects of certain fracking chemicals; they also invalidated a section that said state officials did not have to notify owners of private wells about possible water contamination. This is the second time in two years that the state's high court has stripped out sections of this law.
"I've never seen a law with so many unconstitutional portions in it," said Smith. "Almost universally everything we raised to the court, [the justices] agreed this was unconstitutional for a myriad of reasons in the Pennsylvania and federal constitutions."
October 18, 2016
By Leslie Krowchenko, Times Correspondent
Posted: 09/27/16, 8:41 PM EDT | Updated: 3 days ago
MIDDLETOWN >> To paraphrase John Paul Jones, the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety “has not yet begun to fight.”
The grassroots organization, which filed an injunction in Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Monday in an attempt to defer council’s vote that night regarding the Sunoco Logistics Mariner 2 pipeline project, plans to continue its efforts despite the unanimous decision to grant the necessary easements.
“We will pursue each and every legal and constitutional option available to us to stop the pipeline,” said coalition member Eve Miari. “We plan to engage with our state representatives and senators and entities such as” the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Commission.
Spanning Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, Mariner 2 is a 350-mile pipeline system which would bring natural gas liquids such as propane, ethane and butane to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex. Approximately 11.4 miles would be installed in Delaware County across private and public property in Thornbury, Edgmont, the township, Aston and Upper Chichester, ending at the facility. The first 20-inch pipeline would have an initial capacity of about 275,000 barrels a day with the ability to expand to 450,000; the second 16-inch line, if needed, would have an additional capacity of approximately 250,000 barrels a day. Both lines would be included as part of the project.
The vote approved a 50-foot easement to construct, operate and maintain two pipelines, underground facilities and above-ground markers on four township-owned parcels and maximum 12-foot wide perpetual rights-of-way and easements for use as access roads on three township-owned roads. The pipelines would be installed on open space at Sleighton Park, the Hillcrest and Linvill tracts and Old Mill Pointe. The rights-of-way would be on a road adjacent to Glenwood Elementary School and two roads on the Turnbridge parcel. The township will be paid $1.8 million which will be placed in the capital fund for improvements, said Councilman Mark Kirchgasser.
The coalition was “not surprised by council’s vote” and encouraged by its direction, said Miari. In addition to pre and post-construction concessions negotiated with the company, council approved a proclamation similar to one in Thornbury Township which will be forwarded to Gov. Tom Wolf, the secretary of the state DEP and chairman of the PUC. It noted the materials to be transported are “if released, gaseous, invisible, odorless, toxic, heavier than air and highly flammable.”
“This project has the potential to jeopardize public safety in the township by accidental leaks and explosions or fire,” it read. “A leak of these hazardous liquids has the potential to block or render unsafe three-quarters of the available evacuation routes for township residents.”
Council also invited coalition members and current and future Glenwood Elementary School parents Bibianna Dussling, Seth Kovnat and Tom Smith to work with the body. Kovnat, a structural engineer with experience in pipeline systems, noted the township has received its information exclusively from Sunoco Logistics and feels he will provide another perspective.
“We hope to educate the public and decision makers on the state and federal levels as to what this type of pipeline really is,” he said. “They need to be regulated at the level of a nuclear facility.”
The coalition, which has more than 1,000 followers on Facebook, plans to coordinate efforts among the organization, council, Rose Tree Media School Board, community members and additional stakeholders. The group has engaged professionals to complete a risk assessment, will offer support such as expert witnesses to individuals filing suit against the company and is hoping to introduce legislation at the state level.
The coordination with Harrisburg has already begun. Through the efforts of state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown, and state Reps. Chris Quinn, R-168 of Middletown, Dan Truitt, R-156 of West Chester, and Steve Barrar, R-160 of Upper Chichester, chairman of the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, a public hearing has been scheduled for mid-November to examine the scope of the current state regulations and determine if any additional precautions are needed.
“The hearings will examine the current regulations regarding natural gas pipelines,” said Barrar. “We will specifically look at items such as response and evacuation in the case of an emergency to determine whether the current regulations are adequate or need updating.”
Killion and Quinn forwarded a letter requesting the hearings to Barrar and state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-38 of Glenshaw, chairman of the corresponding Senate committee. Saying “ensuring public safety is a top priority for all involved,” Killion noted he has closely followed the developments in the township and surrounding communities and met with residents affected by the project.
Quinn, a former Middletown councilman, also co-sponsored legislation to reauthorize a program to protect underground utility infrastructure and citizens from line hits during excavation projects. The program, known as PA One Call System, helps to ensure precautions are being taken to prevent damage to underground utilities and pipelines.
“When we first formed four weeks ago, we were viewed as hysterical parents,” said Miari. “As of Monday night, everyone involved knows we are definitely for real.”
September 27, 2016
September 27, 2016 | 12:11 PM
By Jon Hurdle
Delaware County’s Middletown Township decided on Monday to allow Sunoco Logistics to build its controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline through four parcels of public land but called for rigorous protections against leaks or explosions of natural gas liquids in light of grave public concerns about the pipeline’s safety.
The township’s council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance allowing easements for construction of the pipeline after a Sunoco official told a packed public meeting that the company was going to build the pipeline through the township regardless of what the council decided because the company has existing rights of way.
“We have the right to lay this pipeline without talking to anyone but we chose to negotiate easements,” Bart Mitchell, Land Project Manager for the company, told the council before the vote. “Should you decide to turn this down tonight, then we can still put the pipeline in. We will not slow up.”
In an apparent attempt to salvage its right to local control, the council issued a proclamation after the vote, expressing “great concern” about the safety of the pipeline — which is due to run within about 800 feet of an elementary school and beneath a public park — and calling for a series of safety measures designed to protect the public in the event of a leak or spill.
Despite repeated assurances by Sunoco officials that the pipeline will have numerous mechanisms to ensure safe operation running through the residential area, the proclamation said the project “has the potential to jeopardize public safety” by leaks or explosions.
It called for an incident response plan that would include evacuation routes, more safety equipment, and safety training for first responders.
The document said the project’s status as a utility, recently upheld by the Commonwealth Court, exempts it from local land-use law and “severely weakens” its ability to protect public safety. It called for state legislation that would give the township more control over public utility facilities.
Critics continue to argue that the project should not have the status of a public utility because it does not serve a public good. Public utility status, granted by the PUC, allows the company to seize land through eminent domain, and is an ongoing subject of litigation.
The Middletown proclamation follows a similar document from nearby Thornbury Township which also expressed concerns that the pipeline project will undermine safety and local self determination, adding that private water wells could also be impacted by the development.
In Middletown, Sunoco will pay the township $1.8 million which Kirchgasser said would be used for capital projects rather than operations; will provide $200 million in liability coverage, and will install two “hypersensitive” hydrocarbon sensors – one of which will be located near the elementary school — to detect any leak of the colorless, odorless gas from the pipeline.
The company has also agreed to pay for the training of two local firefighters on how to deal with any leaks of natural gas liquids, and will pay up to $100,000 for a risk-assessment study of the line’s placement near the school, Kirchgasser said.
Jeff Shields, a spokesman for Sunoco, rejected accusations that the company had bullied its way into obtaining the easements. “Really, it was quite the opposite,” he said after the meeting. “We hold additional line rights through existing easements that allow us to go through and build the pipeline.
“Instead of just doing that without consulting the township, we consulted the township, asking what their needs are, what their concerns are, and we were able to write up a new agreement that includes compensation for them. We specifically did that so that we gave the township a say.”
Some residents welcomed the compensation package but said they still have deep concerns about the safety of the pipeline; predicted that local real estate prices will fall now that the project has been approved, and accused the council of caving in to corporate demands.
“Council’s stance that this is going through no matter what, and accepting Sunoco’s stance on that is very disturbing,” said Bibianna Dussling, a member of the recently formed Middletown Coalition for Community Safety, and the mother of a six-year-old attending the Glenwood Elementary School. “I think they have weakened themselves.”
Dussling said she was “somewhat encouraged” by the council’s concerns about safety and by its invitation to members of the coalition to participate in a safety panel.
“But what that says to me is acknowledgement of the risk,” she said. “They admitted the risks as far as asphyxiation and combustion.” She said the $1.8 million to be paid by Sunoco is “dwarfed” by the value of human lives that could be endangered by the pipeline.
A trade union official sought to calm safety concerns by saying the pipeline would be built to high standards using skilled labor.
“I would ask residents to take comfort in knowing the pipeline will be constructed by the best craftsmen in the industry and built to the highest industry standards using the most advanced technology available,” said Martin Williams, business manager of Boilermakers Local 13 in Philadelphia.
But Sunoco’s safety record was called into question by a Sept. 23 Reuters report that it had more than 200 crude oil leaks since 2010, more than any of its competitors. Shields, the Sunoco spokesman, acknowledged the statistics but said that a new management team since 2012 had taken steps to improve performance.
Charles Williams, a 40-year resident of Middletown, said he was disappointed by the council’s decision but welcomed the concessions that it had won from Sunoco.
“I understand that they had to say yes to get concessions rather than to be punched in the mouth,” he said.
But Williams, carrying a “Shut it Down in Middletown” sign, said he may now work for the closure of Glenwood School because of continuing worries about whether children there will be safe when the pipeline is built in approximately two years.
The $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 project is due to pump ethane, propane and butane some 350 miles from the Marcellus Shale of southwest Pennsylvania to a processing and exporting facility at Marcus Hook near Philadelphia.
Sunoco has negotiated easements with many private landowners along the 17-county route across the state but is seeking to obtain land via eminent domain actions with some people who have refused its offers of compensation. The issue of whether or not Sunoco has eminent domain authority is expected to reach the state Supreme Court. The project is also awaiting permits from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection.
September 27, 2016
By Leslie Krowchenko, Times Correspondent
Posted: 09/26/16, 10:50 PM EDT | Updated: 4 days ago
MIDDLETOWN >> More than 150 township residents filled the seats, lined the walls and spilled into the entranceway Monday night as council voted unanimously to grant easements for the Sunoco Logistics Mariner 2 pipeline project.
The action approved a 50-foot easement to construct, operate and maintain two pipelines, underground facilities and above-ground markers on four township-owned parcels and maximum 12-foot wide perpetual rights-of-way and easements for use as access roads on three township-owned roads. The pipelines would be installed on open space at Sleighton Park, the Hillcrest and Linvill tracts and Old Mill Pointe. The rights-of-way would be on a road adjacent to Glenwood Elementary School and two roads on the Turnbridge parcel.
“Mariner 2 is not something the township asked for and we do not feel good about it,” said Councilman Mark Kirchgasser. “It is in front of us, however, and we want to handle it in the best way possible for our community.”
The vote was postponed from the August meeting due to ongoing negotiations between Sunoco and the township regarding some of the contract language and members of Middletown Coalition for Community Safety attempted earlier in the day to delay the action a second time. They requested an in Delaware County’s Common Pleas Court to defer the vote for at least 90 days to obtain an independent risk assessment and determine if an appropriate emergency response plan could be developed. The case was heard before Judge Charles Burr, who, following deliberations, chose to dismiss it.
Spanning Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, Mariner 2 is a 350-mile pipeline system which will bring natural gas liquids such as propane, ethane and butane to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex. Approximately 11.4 miles would be installed in Delaware County across private and public property in Edgmont, the township, Aston and Upper Chichester, ending at the facility. The first 20-inch pipeline would have an initial capacity of about 275,000 barrels a day with the ability to expand to 450,000 barrels; the second 16-inch line, if needed, would have an additional capacity of approximately 250,000 barrels a day. Both lines would be included as part of the project.
Sunoco Logistics, which has had easements in the township since the 1930s, was not required to approach council regarding the new lines, said Land Project Manager Bart Mitchell. Had the easements been denied, the company would have moved the pipeline from public to private land.
“If you vote no, we will still put the pipeline in,” he added. “This project will be completed.”
In the interest of time and the length of the agenda, Kirchgasser initially allowed questions from five residents, although twice as many ultimately voiced their concerns. Their issues included the need for a safety plan, proximity to Glenwood Elementary School, inability to detect the tasteless, colorless gas should it leak, reason for re-routing the line from Aston and Sunoco’s safety record and past fines.
“The escaped gas can cause asphyxiation and is highly combustible,” said resident Mike Bomstein. “Is it OK that it is so close to the school and parks? How many lives are you willing to risk for your project?”
Project Manager Matt Gordon responded to many of the queries, noting the pipeline near the school will be outfitted with a shutdown valve which can be activated electronically and close in 60-100 seconds. He added the construction and operation phases are regulated by a number of federal and state agencies and the company will have full-time staff inspecting the pipeline.
Following the vote, Kirchgasser outlined the parameters of the ordinance. The township will be paid $1.8 million which will be placed in the capital fund for improvements. Sunoco Logistics will provide the township with $200 million in liability coverage.
Two additional sensors will be installed near Glenwood Elementary School and Chester Creek for emergency shutdown of the system. Two members each from the Middletown and Rocky Run fire companies will receive training in Texas and local courses will be provided two times a year for five years. An additional $100,000 will be earmarked for risk assessment with a special focus on the school. Kirchgasser also invited three members of MCCS to work with council on other issues.
The township received concessions during and after construction, said special counsel Jim Flandreau. Sunoco Logistics will pay for township engineers to screen the process to protect residents from disruptions such as excessive dust, dirt, erosion, noise, traffic and damage to roads. Pre and post-tests will be conducted on private wells to insure the quality of the water and the method of drilling and pipe installation will be monitored.
Council will also forward a proclamation to Gov. Tom Wolf, the secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection and chairman of the Public Utilities Commission regarding its concerns.
“We request additional public hearings at the state level to insure the safety of Middletown residents,” it read.
September 26, 2016
[Michael Rubinkam, Associated Press]
September 25, 2016
WYALUSING, Pa. (AP) -- Jan Brown pores over his royalty statement and wonders where all the money went.
A few months ago, the nation's second-largest natural gas producer siphoned $2,201 worth of gas from his 240-acre property — but paid him only $359 after taking deductions for transportation and processing.
Brown, 59, who relies on the royalties as his sole source of income, says the deductions are outrageous and claims his lease forbids them. He feels cheated and duped.
In Pennsylvania and other leading gas-producing states, a battle royal has developed over royalties, with landowners bitterly disputing the sums that some drillers have been taking from royalty checks already severely diminished by a collapse in prices.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. alone is facing royalty lawsuits in Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Pennsylvania — including one filed by the Pennsylvania attorney general — and says it has received subpoenas from the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Postal Service and states over its royalty practices.
The deductions' impact is especially acute in Pennsylvania, where gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale, the nation's largest natural gas field, has been selling at a steeper discount than anywhere else in the country. Some landowners have seen their royalty checks dwindle to nothing at all, despite a 1979 state law that mandates a landowner royalty of at least 12.5 percent of the value of the gas. In rare cases, landowners have even gotten statements with negative balances.
"This is robbery," declared Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko, an ardent supporter of gas drilling who has nevertheless found himself at war with the industry. "People up here are fighting mad."
Energy companies have sunk more than 1,000 wells in McLinko's rural county since 2009. In the early years of the fracking boom, royalties could amount to tens of thousands of dollars per month. The money helped save many family farms.
Then prices tumbled, the wells began producing less gas as they aged and residents began taking a closer look at their drastically shrunken checks. Many of them didn't like what they saw: huge deductions for the cost of getting the gas from well to market.
Charlene and John Tewksbury, who own a dairy farm, said that for every $1.20 their gas fetched this year, Chesapeake has been taking about $1.15 in deductions. They figure the deductions have totaled $277,000 since their wells began producing gas in 2011 — cash they want back.
"It's a lot of money. It could have done something in this state, but, instead, Chesapeake kept it," Charlene Tewksbury said.
Chesapeake did not answer questions from The Associated Press about its practice of taking deductions, but said in a statement it has been working with the Pennsylvania attorney general's office and class-action plaintiffs on a "global resolution" of the royalty dispute. A mediation session is scheduled for Oct. 25.
The disagreement centers on how the gas should be valued for royalty purposes.
Landowners contend they're entitled to 12.5 percent of whatever the gas sells for, citing the state's minimum royalty law and the gas companies' own sales pitches that induced landowners to sign drilling leases. Drillers say the royalty is properly calculated based on the market price, less post-production deductions for transportation and processing, a method permitted in most states.
In 2010, the state Supreme Court sided with the gas companies — but also noted that state lawmakers are "best suited" to deciding how the royalties should be paid.
Lawmakers have scheduled a procedural vote Tuesday on a bill in the state House that would prevent deductions from reducing landowner royalties to below the 12.5 percent state minimum. The gas industry has been lobbying against it, asserting it would unconstitutionally interfere with tens of thousands of existing private contracts. Any contractual disputes should be decided in the courts, not through legislation, the drillers argue.
"We understand and share the frustration being voiced by some mineral owners," Marcellus Shale Coalition spokeswoman Erica Clayton Wright said in a statement, but added that landowners and drillers both "share in the success and challenges that the market brings."
With deductions now reducing landowners' royalty payments by 80 or 90 percent — or more — the issue has reached a boil.
Brown, the landowner, produced a statement showing that Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake paid an effective royalty rate of just 2 percent — while another company that owns a portion of his lease, Statoil, took no deductions at all and gave him the full 12.5 percent.
He said he recently called Chesapeake and told them to take his wells offline.
"I'm not against the gas companies. I just want them to treat us fair," Brown said. "They made a promise; I expect them to live up to the promise."Ed note - Those that sup with the devil should use a long spoon.
September 25, 2016
Posted: 09/23/16, 8:19 PM EDT
To the Times:
As a resident and parent of Middletown, I strongly urge the Middletown Township council to vote “no” on an ordinance to grant easements to Sunoco on Middletown public lands. Council is scheduled to vote at its meeting on Monday, Sept. 26 .
The public lands in question include our beloved Sleighton Park, Linvilla Orchards, open space at Hillcrest and Old Mill Point, and access to Glenwood Elementary School tract. A vote to grant the easements would make Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East 2 pipeline one step closer to a reality in our community. And this is a reality we cannot accept.
The Mariner East 2 (ME2) pipeline is a 20” highly volatile liquids (HVL) pipeline that would operate under pressure of 1500 PSI, transporting natural gas byproducts such as ethane, propane, and butane from Marcellus Shale region to Marcus Hook for refinement and export. These products remain liquid under high pressure, but in the event of a leak, vaporize upon contact with air, forming an invisible, odorless, and extremely combustible gas cloud. Some of the dangers that concern local residents include a possible leak along the pipe that would result in a toxic and explosive gas cloud that could reach vulnerable populations in minutes.
About a month ago, the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety formed to learn more and educate the community more about this proposed pipeline project. To be clear, we’re not professional protesters, or seasoned activists, just very concerned citizens. We’re parents, grandparents, and affected residents. For some the pipeline runs through our yard, or our neighborhood, or 625 feet our children’s elementary school playground. We’re Republicans and Democrats, working, and retired, lawyers, engineers, welders, teachers, nurses, and even a former Naval officer who has extensive knowledge on disaster preparation. We’re pro-union and pro-job, but we draw the line when it comes to our community’s safety and our children’s safety.
Some of us have known about the pipeline for the better part of a year. Others of us only found out when the council went to vote on public lands. As a coalition have spent countless hours, made personal sacrifices and spent significant dollars on what we strongly believe is right for the safety of our community.
Today we ask council to unite with the many community members concerned about this proposed pipeline and vote no. It’s not easy to take a stand, to turn down large sums of money, or to go against the wishes of political elites. We understand the risk of eminent domain, but we the residents are willing to wager that bet. We’d rather gamble the land or the concessions, than gamble our lives or our children’s lives.
In saying no to Sunoco, you will gain the respect and trust of the community that I know you love. I will personally be there to support this Council when called upon and so will countless other Middletown Township residents.
George W. Siter III, Middletown
September 23, 2016
Commodities | Fri Sep 23, 2016 | 5:16pm EDT
By Liz Hampton | HOUSTON
Sunoco Logistics (SXL.N), the future operator of the oil pipeline delayed this month after Native American protests in North Dakota, spills crude more often than any of its competitors with more than 200 leaks since 2010, according to a Reuters analysis of government data.
The lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sit a half mile south of the proposed route of the Dakota Access pipeline. The tribe fears the line could destroy sacred sites during construction and that a future oil spill might pollute its drinking water.
A tribal protest over the $3.7 billion project drew broad support from other Native American tribes, domestic and international environmental groups and Hollywood celebrities.
In response to the tribe's objections, the U.S. government earlier this month called for a temporary halt to construction along a section of the 1,100 mile line in North Dakota near the Missouri River.
While environmental concerns are at the heart of the Standing Rock Sioux protest, there is no reference to the frequency of leaks by Sunoco or its parent Energy Transfer Partners (ETP.N) in a legal complaint filed by the tribe, nor has Sunoco's spill record informed the public debate on the line.
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II told Reuters the tribe was aware of the safety record of Energy Transfer, but declined to elaborate.
Sunoco Logistics is one of the largest pipeline operators in the United States. Energy Transfer is constructing the Dakota Access pipeline to pump crude produced at North Dakota's Bakken shale fields to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Once completed, it will hand over the pipeline's operation to Sunoco.
Sunoco acknowledged the data and told Reuters it had taken measures to reduce its spill rate.
"Since the current leadership team took over in 2012, Sunoco Pipeline has enhanced and improved our integrity management program," Sunoco spokesman Jeffrey Shields told Reuters by email.
This significantly cut the amount of barrels lost during incidents, he said.
The U.S. Department of Justice did not make any reference to the company's spill rate when it decided to stall the project. It highlighted the need for reform in the way companies building infrastructure consult with Native American tribes.
Spokespeople for the Departments of Justice and the Interior, and the Army Corps declined to comment to Reuters on whether they were aware of Energy Transfer's leak statistics when they jointly decided to halt construction of the line.
HIGH SPILL RATE
Reuters analyzed data that companies are obliged to disclose to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) when they suffer spills and found that Sunoco leaked crude from onshore pipelines at least 203 times over the last six years.
PHMSA data became more detailed in 2010. In its examination, Reuters tallied leaks in the past six years along dedicated onshore crude oil lines and excluded systems that carry natural gas and refined products. The Sunoco data include two of its pipeline units, the West Texas Gulf and Mid-Valley Pipeline.
That made it the operator with the highest number of crude leak incidents, ahead of at least 190 recorded by Enterprise Products Partners (EPD.N) and 167 by Plains All American Pipeline (PAA.N), according to the spill data reported to PHMSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Enterprise said it has comprehensive safety and integrity programs in place and that many spills happened at its terminals.
Sunoco and Enterprise both said most leaks take place within company facilities and are therefore contained.
Plains All American did not respond to a request for comment.
Sunoco's spill rate shows protestors may have reason to be concerned about potential leaks.
The main option that was considered for routing the line away from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation was previously discarded because it would involve crossing more water-sensitive areas north of the capital Bismarck, according to the project's environmental assessment.
To be sure, most pipeline spills are small and pipelines are widely seen as a safer way to move fuel than alternatives such as rail.
Sunoco and its units leaked a total of 3,406 net barrels of crude in all the leaks over the last six years, only a fraction of the more than 3 million barrels lost in the largest spill in U.S. history, BP Plc's (BP.L) Macondo well disaster in 2010.
Sunoco said it found that crude lines not in constant use were a significant source of leaks, so it had shut or repaired some of those arteries.
In 2015, 71 percent of pipeline incidents were contained within the operator's facility, according to a report by the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, a trade group.
While total pipeline incidents have increased by 31 percent in the last five years, large spills of 500 barrels or more are down by 32 percent over the same time, the report said.
Sunoco accounted for about 8 percent of the more than 2,600 reported liquids pipeline leaks in the past six years in the United States.
The company has made previous efforts to improve safety, a former Sunoco employee who declined to be identified said. It overhauled safety culture after a spill in 2000, and did so again another in 2005 that dumped some 6,000 barrels of crude into the Kentucky River from its Mid-Valley Pipeline.
Sunoco acknowledged that some of its pipeline equipment dates back to the 1950s.
A 2014 corrective measure regulators issued for Sunoco's Mid-Valley Pipeline cited "some history of internal corrosion failures" as a potential factor in a leak that sent crude into a Louisiana bayou near an area used for drinking water.
Crude spills on Sunoco's lines in 2009 and 2011 drew a rebuke from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a settlement announced this year.
The EPA said the settlement aimed to "improve the safety of Sunoco's practices and to enhance its oil spill preparedness and response."
In September, Sunoco received another corrective measure for its newly constructed Permian Express II line in Texas, which leaked 800 barrels of oil earlier this month. The company is already contesting a proposed $1.3 million fine from regulators for violations related to welding on that line.
(Additional reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing By Terry Wade, Simon Webb and Edward Tobin)
September 23, 2016
Ben Seal, The Legal Intelligencer
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network and scores of other environmental groups in 35 states are demanding a congressional investigation of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, alleging it abuses its power under the Natural Gas Act by stripping states and their residents of legal rights, ignoring federal mandates and inflicting environmental harm, all in the interest of the energy industry,
In a letter to Congress in which the network was joined by more than 180 organizations, Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum on Wednesday urged members of Congress to hold hearings to review FERC's actions, reform the Natural Gas Act and delay advancement of the Energy Policy Modernization Act, which is intended to streamline the process for reviewing and approving energy infrastructure. The Leidy Southeast Pipeline is one of the natural gas projects mentioned in the letter.
FERC declined to comment.
The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, a trade group representing the state's natural gas producers, did not return a call for comment.
"The time has now come for Congress to investigate how FERC is using its authority and to recognize that major changes are in fact necessary in order to protect people, including future generations, from the ramifications of FERC's misuse of its power and implementation of the Natural Gas Act," the 23-page letter said.
It was sent to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
A Democratic spokesman for the House committee said Congress' efforts have been focused "almost exclusively" on streamlining the pipeline process for the benefit of industry, "with little regard for the rights of private property owners, communities' concerns, or the views of state and local officials." At a minimum, he said, it is time for a "serious and comprehensive look" to ensure the Natural Gas Act, established in 1938, is still serving the public interest.
Van Rossum said the quick response from the House committee left her optimistic about getting congressional hearings in the next term.
The letter alleged a series of abuses by FERC, including ruling on pipeline projects with direct or indirect financial benefits for its employees, failing to hold pipeline companies accountable for environmental violations, and using consultants with conflicts of interest.
Through the use of a "self-manufactured legal loophole" called a tolling order, FERC prevents communities and their residents from challenging a pipeline approval—sometimes for more than a year—while companies use eminent domain to take property rights and move forward with construction, the letter said. The act of tolling denies the public their due process rights, it said.
The letter said research indicated that FERC has never granted a request for a rehearing on a pipeline project to any non-industry party.
According to the letter, FERC "suffers from an unparalleled bias" in favor of the energy industry it regulates because it is fully funded by fees collected from the pipelines and delivery systems it approves. FERC is also free from executive or legislative oversight, the letter said, because it is the only federal agency financially immune from the legislative branch for its budget and there is a "for cause" limitation on the president's power to remove its commissioners.
The agency strips the rights of states to review pipeline projects by granting approval and authorizing construction prior to a project receiving state water quality certification—an action expressly prohibited by the Clean Water Act, according to the letter.
"At this point, the only way we're going to have reform is if it is broad-scale reform, from the legislation to the funding to the whole structure of the agency," van Rossum said.
The letter came six months after a federal lawsuit filed by the network alleging that FERC's pipeline review and approval process is "infected by structural bias."
The complaint, filed March 2 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said FERC's budgetary reliance on natural gas pipeline projects—a "fatally flawed financial structure"—prevents it from fairly presiding over the approval process. FERC filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim that has not yet been ruled upon. FERC's approval of the PennEast Pipeline Project transporting Marcellus Shale gas is the subject of the lawsuit.
September 22, 2016
By Rick Kauffman, firstname.lastname@example.org, @Kauffee_DT on Twitter
Posted: 09/21/16, 9:40 PM EDT | Updated: 8 secs ago
NEWTOWN >> In recent weeks, national news has focused on a battle between more than 100 Native American tribes and the expansion of a natural gas pipeline in North Dakota.
The attention has largely been focused on the struggle between the overwhelmed and outmatched tribal nations and the energy corporations that have built governmental support through lobbying for public utility status, weak environmental oversight and the promise of creating thousands of industry jobs.
In North Dakota, environmentalists are finding key allies in the Native American population, who often have federal treaty rights over land and water use that are particularly helpful tools in halting the construction of pipeline projects.
“The Mariners project and the Dakota Access are both horrendous projects,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, who stood in solidarity with those in North Dakota along West Chester Pike Tuesday afternoon with about 30 others outside the entrance to the Sunoco Logistics headquarters.
“It’s sort of like choosing between a heart attack or cancer,” he said.
Like the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Mariner East 2 pipeline has incited the local population in Delaware County to halt the expansion of pipelines through rural and residential areas. On Tuesday, members of regional Native American tribes, as well as local environmental activist groups, protested outside of the Sunoco Logistics headquarters in Newtown Square.
Sunoco Logistics is a partner in both Mariner East and the Dakota Access projects.
“Their fight is our fight, and vice versa,” Tittle said. “Open space, water supply, community safety, it’s all the same battle.”
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7 billion, 1,172-mile project that will connect the Bakken and Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Ill. The light crude oil travels through 50 counties in four different states.
Since Labor Day weekend, Native Americans representing at least 100 tribes from the United States and Canada have protested the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, fearing the contamination of the singular water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Missouri River.
The Standing Rock Indian Reservation is the fifth-largest Native American reservation in the contiguous United States, occupying more than 3,660 square miles of land in North and South Dakota.
From the hub in Illinois where the Dakota Access Pipeline ends its route, it then connects to existing pipelines that lead it to the Nederland, Texas terminal on the Gulf Coast, which is owned by Sunoco Logistics.
The Mariner East 2 pipeline is a $2.5 billion, 350-mile natural gas liquids pipeline that will run from eastern Ohio through Pennsylvania where it will eventually arrive at the Marcus Hook refinery. Carrying ethane, butane and propane to the facility from both the Utica and Marcellus region, the product will be separated and distributed both domestically and internationally.
Tuesday it was members of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware, whose roots in the area now known as the Delaware Valley go back more than 10,000 years. Known as the “grandfathers,” the Lenape tribe is considered to be among the most ancient of the Northeastern nations.
For further reference, look to your nearest Wawa — which is the Lenape word for the Canada goose.
“Ending this corporate dominance and buying influence is a major issue for us,” said Chief Dennis Coker of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware, who often is contacted to conduct investigations and consult on environmental impact in historic tribal locations.
“They expedited that Dakota Access pipeline, they cut it up into small segments so they could expedite it, knowing full well they were avoiding some of the oversight in the review that would have been necessary if it were considered an 1,100-mile-long pipeline,” Coker said. “I can only believe that same mentality is proliferated in that whole energy industry of buying influence and shortcutting all of the review process.”
Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court voted 5-2 in July to confirm Sunoco Logistics’ right as a public utility, under which the definition is a company that offers something “necessary or proper for the service, accommodation, convenience, or safety of the public,” according to PA law.
As a public utility, the Sunoco Logistics Partners and its Mariner pipeline projects is granted the right to use eminent domain to condemn properties of Pennsylvania landowners who refuse to sign the easements necessary to construct the Mariner 2 East pipeline.
Sunoco Logistics Public Affairs Manager Joe McGinn said the easements have been sought from landowners as the company concurrently seeks the permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. He said that for the 300 miles of pipeline, there are 30,000 pages of permits, which all go through administrative, technical and public review periods.
“We’ve acquired the majority of easements all the way through,” McGinn said. “With an easement, each one is specific to a property owner [for] carrying hydrocarbons … it specifies an entry point and a work area.”
Many, however, have questioned what rights they are forfeiting when they sign the easements before the permits have been finalized.
“Eminent domain is just a tool of the domination culture to get what they want, and they are very effective at getting it,” Coker said “They have deep pockets and all the attorneys and they’re relentless in their pursuit.
“They can wear down an underfunded tribal government pretty easily.”
Members of the public have expressed concerns over the proximity to the Glenwood Elementary School in Media, as well as the crossing of various waterways, like Chester Creek, which feeds into the Delaware River.
Coker said the issues lie within free prior and informed consent, the principle that a community has the right to give or withhold its consent to propose projects that may affect the lands they own, occupy or use.
“It’s a major issue for the indigenous people of this county,” Coker said. “Often we are faced with reacting instead of pro-acting, it’s already a done deal.”
Many opponents of the two pipelines cite the Keystone XL pipeline as a success in relentless public pressure. A proposed extension announced in 2008 would have connected a series of U.S. crude reserves in Montana and North Dakota to a junction in Steele City, Nebraska where it would split to areas in Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas.
However, the Obama administration rejected the fourth phase of the project, the Keystone XL expansion, saying “the Keystone XL pipeline does not serve the national interests of the United States.”
The halting of that project has been a feather in the cap of residents and activists who see the Dakota Access and Mariner 2 East as harbingers of negative environmental impact which outweigh the prospects of job creation or advancements in infrastructure.
Sunoco Logistics has promised 30,000 jobs between the facility in Marcus Hook or in the form of limited-term construction jobs building the pipeline expansion. Local political candidates have chimed in about efforts to improve oversight.
Last week, Marty Molloy, of Nether Providence, the Democratic candidate for the 9th District Senate Seat, held a press conference in Middletown calling for more oversight of the Mariner 2 Pipeline Project.
“I’m asking us to slow the process down so we can be thoughtful about public safety,” Molloy said.
His opponent in the November general election, Sen. Tom Killion, R-9, of Middletown, said he intends to work closely with oversight committees to make sure the residents’ concerns are met.
“Tom has been responsive to residents and has been touching base with regulatory administrations over the course of the last several months,” a Killion spokesperson said. “We want to take a look at all the layers of oversight and hear from first responders to see what else needs to be done.”
Regardless, many homeowners, as well as the Native American tribes with ancestral claims to tribal lands are protected under the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions, are searching for new ways to leverage energy corporations into protecting natural resources.
“We view this corporate air as an extension of the domination code of the doctrine of discovery when those European monarchs came here and just dominated the cultures of the Western hemisphere,” Coker said. “It’s the exact same thing with a little bit more sophistication, but it’s certainly at the root of our problem.”
September 21, 2016
by Andrew Maykuth, Staff Writer @Maykuth
Sunoco Logistics’ investment in a controversial North Dakota crude-oil pipeline came home to roost Wednesday as a group of about 40 protesters marched on its Newtown Square campus.
The peaceful protest, organized by regional Sierra Club chapters, was aimed at stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would deliver oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale field to Illinois.
The $3.7 billion project, which is being built by Sunoco Logistics' parent company, Energy Transfer Partners LP of Dallas, Texas, had attracted little attention outside the four states it crosses until the Standing Rock Sioux tribe filed for an injunction to halt construction in August.
The tribe’s grievances that the pipeline could disturb artifacts and will threaten its water have rapidly energized a coalition of Native American groups and climate-change activists, sparking confrontations with security crews and law enforcement where the pipeline passes near the Sioux reservation in North Dakota. About 60 percent of the project is already built.
A federal judge ruled Sept. 9 that the tribe had failed to make a case for an injunction, but the Obama administration stepped in and froze construction where the pipeline crosses the Missouri River, requiring a federal permit.
Emboldened by the government’s decision, activists opposing oil and gas projects appear to be stepping up battles to block infrastructure projects.
The organizers of Wednesday’s protest -- Sierra Club chapters in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware -- were joined by representatives of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware, whose principal chief, Dennis J. Coker, said the Dakota Access project was a deep affront to Native Americans.
“We’re here in solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux,” said Coker. He said the protesters hoped to influence the pipeline officials “to do the right thing.”
Sunoco Logistics owns a 15.3 percent interest in the pipeline, and will become the operator if and when it is completed.
“While we respect the right to express opinions on infrastructure development, pipelines continue to be the safest form of transporting petroleum products, and we believe that these projects are catalysts for our nation's economy, creating manufacturing opportunities and real, family-sustaining jobs,” Jeff Shields, a spokesman for Sunoco Logistics, said in a statement Wednesday.
The protesters rallied on a sidewalk on West Chester Pike, outside the Ellis Preserve corporate campus in Newtown Square where Sunoco Logistics and other companies have offices. Later, the group marched into the campus to pose around the familiar sign of Sunoco LP, the fuel retailer, which is related to Sunoco Logistics but is not the company building the pipeline.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said the Standing Rock Sioux’s fight was similar to ongoing battles in this region over the build-out of pipelines to deliver natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation.
“The big oil and gas companies are trying to build this massive infrastructure to keep us addicted to fossil fuels, while the future is clean energy,” he said.
Tittel and Lenape leader Coker accused the pipeline developer of bulldozing burial grounds, and said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had failed to consult the tribe on the location of cultural sites, as required by the National Historic Preservation Act.
The pipeline’s oversight is complicated because the federal government has limited jurisdiction over its pathway, primarily where it crosses waterways. The Corps of Engineers' oversight affects only about 3 percent of the 1,172-mile route.
The judge in Washington who heard the Standing Rock tribe’s plea for an injunction said the Corps and the pipeline developers had reached out to tribes along the pipeline’s route numerous times since Dakota Access announced its plans in 2014.
“The pipeline route had been modified 140 times in North Dakota alone to avoid potential cultural resources,” wrote U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg.
He also said the pipeline follows largely on “well-trodden ground” on private land near the Standing Rock reservation, along an existing natural-gas pipeline and an electrical power line.
But the tribe “largely refused to engage in consultations” about cultural sites with the Corps of Engineers, Boasberg wrote. “It chose instead to hold out for more -- namely, the chance to conduct its own cultural surveys over the entire length of the pipeline.”
He said the Corps "gave the tribe a reasonable and good-faith opportunity to identify sites of importance to it,” Boasberg said.
Those distinctions did not carry much weight among the protesters on Wednesday. Robin Mann, a Sierra Club national vice president and Rosemont resident, said the government’s approach seemed aimed at doing the oil company’s bidding.
“If the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribal leaders weren't willing to play that game, I respect their decision,” she said.
September 21, 2016
by Julia Sherwin | Sep 20, 2016 | Chester County News | 0 comments
The Sierra Club is joining with thousands of people from across the nation to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline at one of the largest owners of the pipeline, Sunoco Logistics Partners. In a media advisory, Sierra Club’s New Jersey Director, Jeff Tittel, says the group is “standing with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe because the fight against these dangerous pipelines is not over.” The Dakota Access pipeline would carry 450,000 barrels of oil through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois and cross under the Missouri River just upstream of the Tribe’s drinking water supply, where an oil spill would threaten public health and safety. Tittel says there are currently 15 proposed pipelines in the Delaware River Valley that threaten drinking water supplies and the environment, including Sunoco’s Mariner East project. He says that concerned citizens must stop fracking and keep fossil fuels in the ground. The protest will be held at 11:00 am outside the Sunoco Logistics Partners Corporate Headquarters at 3930 West Chester Pike in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.
September 20, 2016
September 15, 2016 | 5:35 PM
By Susan Phillips
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has rejected Sunoco Logistics current proposal to protect waterways and wetlands at risk of damage by construction of the company’s Mariner East 2 pipeline. Sunoco recently submitted what DEP refers to as “technically complete” permit applications necessary for moving forward with the pipeline project. DEP’s critiques of the permit applications come after a year of working with agency staff to resolve problems with the company’s initial proposals. And yet, more than a year since Sunoco first applied for the permits, DEP has documented hundreds of issues remaining in each of the 17 counties along the pipeline route. DEP’s response documents, known as “deficiency letters,” detail missing or insufficient information about how the company plans to protect the environment, drinking water sources, and cultural heritage sites along the 350-mile long route from Ohio to Marcus Hook, Delaware County.
The $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 project would take propane, butane and potentially ethane though 17 counties from the Marcellus Shale of eastern Ohio and southwestern Pennsylvania to a terminal at Marcus Hook near Philadelphia, where the fuel will be shipped overseas.
Pipeline construction on the 20-inch diameter high pressure line will tunnel beneath 17 counties in the commonwealth, cut through 2,700 properties, require a 50 foot right-of-way, and cross more than 1,200 streams or wetlands. The project, which has already begun tree clearing in parts of the state, requires state approved plans to prevent erosion and sedimentation, as well as mitigate harm to waterways, before any pipe is put into the ground. Chapter 105 permits, a necessary step for any construction project that may impact a waterway, are aimed at protecting streams and wetlands. Chapter 102 permits focus on erosion and sedimentation.
No federal agencies oversee the pipeline’s construction. So these obscure permits are the only chance for the public, or state regulators, to have any input on how this massive pipeline project will be built.
The Chapter 105 deficiency letters sent to Sunoco and posted on DEP’s website September 6, outline an incredibly long list of problems with the company’s proposals including: a lack of construction details for water crossings, no analyses for how water quality standards for each crossing will be maintained or how the area will be restored after construction, no mention of nearby drinking water wells and contact information for those responsible for them, no project wide cumulative impacts analysis, no secondary impact analysis, no explanation of how threatened or endangered species will be protected, no evidence of consultation with or approval from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for protecting cultural heritage sites, and no emergency plans in the case of a pipeline rupture.
Some of the deficiencies listed by DEP are bizarre, or just plain sloppy. In the 21-page deficiency letter for Delaware County, signed by DEP’s chief of dams and waterways John Hohenstein, the agency questions why the permit application indicated construction of an 8-inch pipeline, and why in one section Sunoco states that a second pipeline will be built within the next 5 years.
According to an information sheet on Sunoco’s own website, the Mariner East 2 project comprises a 20-inch diameter line, and possibly another 16-inch line, both of which were scheduled to be completed and shipping gas by the first half of 2017.
In the 37-page deficiency letter outlining the problems with the Chapter 105 permits in Huntingdon County written by DEP’s civil engineer manager Edward Munzie, DEP questions how one section of the application describes Sunoco’s potential second Mariner East 2 pipeline as 16-inches in diameter, and another part of the application states it could be up to 20 inches. Munzie asks: “Which is correct?”
The letters also question the credentials and authority of the Sunoco representative who signed off on the proposals, Matthew Gordon, and point to different titles he uses in different parts of the permit applications. The applications require an engineer’s seal and certification.
Sunoco has to respond to the deficiencies by November 7 or risk rejection of the permits. The company could also ask for an extension.
Environmentalists and pipeline safety advocates say the extensive deficiency letters show the company has not taken environmental protection or safety seriously.
“It’s a giant incomplete series of applications,” said Alex Bomstein, an attorney with the Clean Air Council, which has also filed a lawsuit challenging the authority of the pipeline company to take land through eminent domain. “The level of these deficiencies surprised even me.” Bomstein stressed that Sunoco is not unique, in that he’s seen other large projects where companies have submitted incomplete permit applications.
A sign marks a water crossing where the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline would cross in Huntingdon County.
The Clean Air Council coordinated with several groups to submit public comments on the applications to DEP. Lynda Farrell, with the Pipeline Safety Coalition, an organization that also submitted public comments, praised the agency for their work outlining the deficiencies of the permit applications. But she questions why the public had a limited comment period, while companies like Sunoco get to revise their applications until they get the approval to start construction.
“At what point do you say no?” asked Farrell. “This company shouldn’t be permitted to drive a tricycle across the state let alone a major pipeline.”
But Sunoco says it’s normal to have unresolved issues for such a large project. Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields says the deficiency letters were not unexpected.
“The majority of the comments from the [DEP] are duplicates between the letters,” wrote Shields in an email. “Some questions not answered in one section of the application are answered in other sections. We are working with the Department to finalize the information and clarification they are requesting, and we will be providing that to them.”
Patrick McDonnell, acting head of DEP told StateImpact there is usually a back and forth on most projects when it comes to environmental permit applications. What’s different about the Mariner East 2, he said, is the size and scope of the project.
“For these larger, multi-county [projects], you are not just dealing with one wetland issue or one stream-crossing issue, you are dealing with multiple issues across multiple jurisdictions,” McDonnell said. ”Part of what you are seeing in this is it’s just an unusual project. Typically, we are dealing with much more discrete projects geographically. Having something that stretches across the entirety of the state is not something that we are typically dealing with.”
Jon Hurdle contributed reporting to this article.
September 15, 2016
Posted: 09/19/16, 9:47 PM EDT | Updated: 2 days ago
It’s now become apparent that if Sunoco Logistics is successful in getting approval for its massive Marine East 2 pipeline, it is not going to be without serious public discussion.
That is not necessarily a bad thing.
Middletown residents packed a recent township council meeting to voice their concerns about the proposed pipeline, which would ferry thousands of barrels of volatile chemicals from the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania to the former Sunoco refinery at Marcus Hook.
The project has the potential to be an economic bonanza for Delaware County and the region, possibly even turning Marcus Hook, which just a few years ago was staring into the abyss when Sunoco announced its intention to shutter its iconic plant and get out of the refinery business, into an energy hub for the entire Northeast.
That’s not necessarily what was on the minds of Middletown residents who peppered council with their concerns, urging the board to take a long, hard look at the project and its effect on life in the township.
Ironically, residents in Middletown have been living with pipelines for decades, a remnant of Sunoco’s glory days as a refining powerhouse. Mariner East 2 would build two additional pipelines, roughly adjacent to those already in place. The existing pipeline is already delivering butane, ethane and propane to Marcus Hook. But Mariner East 2 would be a massive increase in the amount of material flowing to Marcus Hook. Once Mariner East 2 is fully implemented, as much as 450,000 barrels of the volatile gases would be flowing under the township.
Middletown gave Sunoco Logistics an initial approval for a permanent easement involving several township parcels, one of which would run next to Glenwood Elementary School.
Residents urged council to hold off while studying the possible risks and other effects. They have galvanized into the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety and paid for their own independent study of the proposal. That report, by hydrogeologist Paul A. Rubin, warned of the dangers to the community in the event of a leak, or worse explosion, along the line.
“Placement of pipelines conducting explosive gases in densely populated areas presents a worse-case scenario – multiple catastrophic disasters that may occur at any time of day or night,” the report indicated.
Township resident George Siter attended the meeting and zeroed in on the issue of having a pipeline containing these kinds of materials that close to an elementary school.
“When I started to learn how the pipeline was different from other pipelines in the area, how it would transport ethane and other highly volatile liquids under significant amounts of pressure, in close proximity to our home, school and community parks, I had to pay attention,” said Siter, who has a daughter who attends Glenwood and another starting kindergarten. “Sending your children to school is a big leap for any parent. You have to trust the bus driver, the teachers, the principal, and the community in general to keep them safe when they are not in your sight. Se we started to wonder, who will our children be protected if there is ever a leak, or worse an explosion, along the proposed path?”
He wasn’t the only one with concerns.
And that’s not Sunoco Logistics’ only obstacle.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has ordered the company to make changes to its application in terms of the waterways and wetlands it will need to cross.
Matthew Gordon understands the residents’ concerns. He’s the project manager for Mariner East 2 and he attended the Middletown meeting in an attempt to assuage their feelings. He stressed safety procedures, both during construction and then once the pipeline goes online. He offered details on how the pipeline is monitored for any sign of a problem, as well as maintenance procedures design to emphasize safety.
Middletown is schedule to take a final vote on the easements at its Sept. 26 meeting.
Last week groups also approached Media Borough Council and asked it to reconsider its support for the project.
It’s likely a debate that will take place all across the state, following the path of the Mariner East 3 pipeline.
Mariner East 2 will travel 350 miles from the Marcellus Shale region to Marcus Hook. Of that span, 11.4 miles will dissect the western part of Delaware County.
It is a massive project, with a huge economic upside, and yes, with some risks.
It’s now being talked about in boardrooms – along with family dinner tables.
A decision this important should not be secreted away, decided behind closed doors and then rolled out on an unaware citizenry when it is too late to make their concerns known.
To its credit, Sunoco Logistics has held public hearings in several spots across the state. Middletown council has listened to residents’ concerns, as well as words of praise from the Chamber of Commerce and unions who see the economic upside to the project.
All of this is a good thing. Keep the conversation going.
September 19, 2016
By Nick Tricome, Times Correspondent
Posted: 09/18/16, 8:49 PM EDT
MIDDLETOWN >> Although still awaiting a final decision, Middletown council introduced an ordinance at last week’s meeting that would grant Sunoco Logistics a permanent easement for four parcels of public land (Sleighton Park, Linvill Tract Open Space, Old Mill Pointe Open Space, and Hillcrest Tract Open Space), and an additional perpetual right of way and easement for access to two more parcels (Glenwood School Side Open Space and Tunbridge Open Space) for its Mariner East 2 pipeline project.
The ordinance’s consideration for adoption initially appeared on the agenda for the Aug. 22 council meeting, but was ultimately delayed until this month. Many, however, still took notice, as the board room was packed Monday night with residents – and others from outside the township – wanting to voice their concerns.
Prior to last month’s meeting, Eve Miari said the project wasn’t even on her radar. But when she saw a post on Facebook about the Linvill Tract being part of the ordinance, the pipeline caught her attention.
“Little flags started going off,” the Upper Providence resident said, adding that despite being from the next town over, the potential consequences of the project still carry weight.
“We’re here all the time,” she said. “We shop here, we do activities here.”
Miari’s concerns, which mostly revolved around the overall safety of the pipeline project, were in line with others following the Aug. 22 meeting. The result gave way to forming the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety, which commenced its own research on the pipeline – paying out of pocket for an assessment of the parcel that contains Glenwood Elementary School by hydrogeologist Paul A. Rubin (Hydroquest). The coalition presented the assessment to council Monday night.
“The reason we picked Glenwood is because we feel that is one of the closest risks and also one of the most egregious possibilities of having a leak or an explosion,” Middletown resident Tom Smith said at the start of the meeting.
The assessment found that the current route for Mariner East 2 puts the centerline of it 860 feet away from Glenwood Elementary, and estimated that it would take the gases being transported just shy of five minutes to reach the school in the event of a pipeline failure, assuming for a low wind speed of two miles per hour.
The gases planned to be transported by the pipeline are propane, ethane and butane, which the coalition emphasized throughout the night are highly volatile and would travel through at high pressures.
“When I started to learn how this pipeline was different from other pipelines in the area, how it would transport ethane and other highly volatile liquids under significant amounts of pressure, in close proximity to our home, school and community parks, I had to pay attention,” Middletown resident George Siter said in a prepared statement to council Monday night.
Siter said he got a call from his wife three weeks ago, and that she was worried about the pipeline when she read about it online. At first he wanted to ignore it, but grew more and more concerned when he started to learn more details.
“Our oldest daughter is in second grade at Glenwood, and our younger daughter started kindergarten last Tuesday,” he said. “We also have an 8-month-old son who will go there before we know it.”
“Sending your children to school is a big leap for any parent,” Siter added. “You have to trust the bus driver, the teachers, the principal, and the community in general to keep them safe when they are not in your sight. So we started to wonder, how will our children be protected if there is ever a leak, or worse an explosion, along the proposed pipeline path?”
Other parents had similar questions.
Bibianna Dussling is a mother of three, one of her children being a first-grader at Glenwood. She told council that she previously served as a Naval officer and helicopter pilot, and that part of her responsibilities were to have an emergency management plan.
Dussling acknowledged that the township’s own emergency response plan addresses pipeline safety and how to deal with hazard release and fires, but asked about what type of training would be put in place for Mariner East 2 more specifically.
Council Chairman Mark Kirchgasser said local firefighters and emergency responders are trained, and receive bi-annual training from pipeline services such as Sunoco and Texas Eastern. However, he mentioned that the firefighters are trained for the pipelines that are in the ground already, and that further training is subsequent to Mariner East 2 going into the ground.
Dussling suggested that the council should at least have some sort of planning in place for the pipeline before approving any easements of public land, and also asked the council to consider how to go about educating the public of the potential hazards going forward.
Additional concerns brought up during the meeting included Sunoco’s safety history, and what might happen to the pipeline years down the line.
The coalition’s assessment referenced a pipeline failure from January 2015 near Follansbee, W.Va., that resulted in a fire that would end up burning 5 acres of land.
Sunoco Logistics has again and again stressed that both installation of the pipeline and security and maintenance once it is up and running will be held to the highest industry standards.
The project, which could eventually bring as much as 450,000 barrels of chemicals a day to the end point at the former Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook, could create thousands of jobs and turn Marcus Hook into an energy hub for the entire Northeast. The company is in the process of gaining easements from property owners, as well as municipalities along the route.
But many in Middletown remain leery of the project.
Resident Seth Kovnat, who works as a chief structural engineer in the aerospace industry, raised questions about the pipeline corroding and what the long-term risks might be.
“Even if everything is installed perfectly, the risk is still significant, especially since this pipeline will be here forever, long enough for most citizens to forget about the associated risk,” Kovnat said. “There are always unknown events that can cause pipe failure, and on pipes this large and pressurized to these levels, failure is simply catastrophic.”
“Given enough time, and forever is enough, something will happen, and Sunoco’s personal safety record indicates that a leak or breach might occur sooner rather than later,” he added. “Potential consequences of that breach are enormous.”
Sunoco Logistics Mariner East Project Manager Matt Gordon addressed some questions toward the end of the meeting, mostly going over the monitors and alert systems, patrols and maintenance plans the company has in place following the pipeline’s installation to keep any potential problems in check.
Still, those in opposition to the pipeline aren’t convinced.
“I just don’t believe there is any way they can do this safely,” Miari said.
Middletown’s next council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 26.
September 18, 2016
September 12, 2016
On Friday, the Obama administration temporarily stopped work on the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline ("DAPL"). The joint announcement by three federal agencies – the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior and the Department of the Army – came shortly after a federal judge denied the Native American tribes’ efforts to block the pipeline and ruled in favor of construction for the $3.7 billion project to continue.
Dakota Access Pipeline
Primarily owned by Dallas-based pipeline operator Energy Transfer Partners L.P. ETP, the project has been designed to shuttle over 470,000 barrels of crude daily from North Dakota's prolific Bakken formation through South Dakota and Iowa to an existing pipeline in Patoka, Illinois. From there, shippers could access markets and refineries across the Midwest and Gulf Coast.
Announced in 2014, DAPL was originally expected to start up later this year. The developer claimed that the project would contribute an estimated $156 million in sales and income taxes to state and local governments, apart from providing employment to 8,000-12,000 construction workers.
As of now, the conduit is 75%-owned by a venture called Bakken Holdings – formed by Energy Transfer Partners and another pipeline operator Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. SXL. Downstream operator Phillips 66 PSX controls the remaining 25%.
As per a deal announced last month, Enbridge Energy Partners L.P. EEP and Marathon Petroleum Corp. MPC would also go on to own a minority interest in DAPL.
Protests from Indigenous Activists
All along, a group of indigenous people, climate activists and landowners have been protesting the oil pipeline.
In particular, the Standing Rock Sioux – a tribe living close to the proposed pipeline – and environmentalists have argued that the project could pose a threat to the local water supply. The DAPL route crosses under a section of the nearby Missouri River, which is the major source of natural water supply for the tribe. Tribal leaders are skeptical that an accident or a spill could potentially contaminate farmland and drinking water for millions. They say the project would also destroy a sacred burial site.
The tribes and their representatives believe that they weren’t adequately consulted on these issues and filed a federal lawsuit in July against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Friday’s twin developments – a federal court rejection for an injunction and then the U.S. government’s decision to stop work – means that sponsors of the controversial DAPL would have to halt operations along a 40-mile stretch in North Dakota though activity on other sections of the pipeline could proceed.
DAPL: Another Keystone?
While Friday’s move by federal agencies does not put an end to the pipeline’s progress, it does pose a major question mark over its future. In fact, some environmental activists believe that the DAPL is going the way of doomed Keystone XL pipeline.
Late last year, pipeline operator TransCanada Corp.'s TRP contentious Canada-to-U.S. Keystone XL pipeline was rejected by the U.S. Senate amid another oil-versus-environment debate. The $5.4 billion project would have connected the oil sands of Alberta to the U.S. Gulf. It was slated to run up to 1,179 miles and carry up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day.
What Next for DAPL?
Units of Energy Transfer Partners closed down around 4% in Friday’s trading session after federal government’s order to halt construction on a particular stretch. It’s unclear as to what the Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) operator would do to move the project forward if building on the current route is not allowed.
One option is to change the path of the pipeline but that entails huge cost overrun and difficulty. Moreover, such a move would require fresh applications/approvals and can peg back the development by years.
The most affected by the turmoil would be the shippers – particularly those that already purchased crude, which they expected to move via the DAPL. Until a way out is found, shippers will have to be contend with costly railroads, or with the crowded existing pipelines. This, in turn, will hit oil producers.
This issue isn’t likely to get resolved any time soon, with a protracted legal battle in the offing. In the meantime, you could focus on other companies instead of Energy Transfer Partners - that have favorable Zacks ranks and are therefore worth a look. An energy stock worth investing in right now is Murphy USA Inc. MUSA. It has a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
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September 12, 2016
Ben Seal, The Legal Intelligencer
September 12, 2016 | 0 Comments
Editor's note: This is the first in a series examining the potential effects of Pennsylvania's new oil and gas regulations on both the energy and legal industries.
Pennsylvania's new batch of oil and gas regulations, expected to go into effect this fall, place onerous requirements on drillers and producers that could lead companies to look to other shale-rich regions for future investment, energy industry attorneys said.
More stringent regulations regarding orphaned wells, protected species, public resources and water impoundments, among other new or updated provisions, are prompting rising concerns that they will diminish interest in drilling in Pennsylvania, they said. At a time when incentives for development are already limited by lower gas prices, the new requirements could be a tipping point for exploitation of the Marcellus and Utica shales, which have buoyed the state's economy for the past decade.
"Industry is being pushed to its limits in terms of what it can feasibly and economically accept ... before it has to seriously look at how much of its dollar-for-dollar investments can continue being made in Pennsylvania," said Stephen Saunders, who represents landowners and industry clients.
Current and former state Department of Environmental Protection officials said such concerns were exaggerated.
Several oil and gas attorneys, though, agreed the new regulations represent a significant threat to the industry's future in Pennsylvania, as rising incremental costs make it likely that some companies will pull up stakes and divert their attention to more inviting opportunities in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas—even right across the border in Ohio and West Virginia. The individual changes to the laws, such as those expanding pre-permit notification to public resource agencies about a proposed well or adding procedural hurdles to the process of searching for nearby wells, are cumbersome but manageable. Taken together, though, they will lead to enough additional delays, expenses and uncertainty to dissuade further investment, attorneys said.
Michael Krancer of Blank Rome, secretary of the environmental department under Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, said it's a simple economic reality that burdening companies with additional costs will either push production elsewhere or pass costs along to consumers.
The regulations, found at Chapter 78a of the Pennsylvania Code, are on the desk of the Legislative Reference Bureau, awaiting publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin that will set their effective date. The process has taken the DEP nearly five years to complete.
Scott Perry, the DEP's deputy secretary, said he doesn't believe implementation of the rules will affect anyone's drilling plans.
"We've got the best resource, perhaps in the world, and it's not going anywhere," he said.
Perry said any operators that seek better rates of return in other jurisdictions will only do so temporarily. He questioned whether any company skeptical of operating in Pennsylvania would be focused more on the financial burden or the desire not to be regulated.
The regulations constitute an "overreaction" to some relatively limited issues that have arisen in unconventional drilling, said Andrew Levine of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young. There will now be additional levels of review in the permitting process, creating a dispiriting lack of clarity for drilling companies forecasting into the future, he said.
"Are we just going to let other regions in the United States prosper at our expense?" Levine asked. "Other states are laughing at us right now."
Terry Bossert of Post & Schell in Harrisburg said the DEP's implementation of Chapter 78a will be as important as what's written in the regulations. Bossert, who until August handled regulatory affairs at Range Resources, a Texas-based natural gas company, said the most recent guidance document he saw regarding the new rules measured about 60 pages, highlighting the uncertainty in play for a batch of regulations that are comparatively brief.
If approvals that were once routine begin falling into a morass of delays, he said, companies could flee Pennsylvania for areas with less restrictive regulatory frameworks.
"The old adage 'time is money' is probably truer in the oil and gas industry than anywhere," Bossert said.
Timing will be especially relevant for companies actively pursuing drilling permits right now, said Kevin Garber of Babst, Calland, Clements and Zomnir. Any applicant in the midst of the permitting process has no guidance on how to handle a sudden, if anticipated, change in the regulatory scheme that could invalidate work already performed. Some drillers could be better off pulling out of Pennsylvania rather than making a further investment with no certainty of obtaining a permit, he said.
John Quigley, who led the DEP when Chapter 78a was approved this spring, said any suggestion it will drive industry out of Pennsylvania is "baloney." There are no surprises in the package of laws, Quigley said, in part because the DEP used cost estimates provided by the industry and the regulatory process featured "unprecedented levels" of transparency, including 28,000 public comments and dozens of public hearings and meetings.
Quigley said the industry response is "typical bluster," and the total cost of adhering to Chapter 78a is estimated to be less than 1 percent of the cost of drilling a well.
But Joel Burcat of Saul Ewing said it's a "great possibility" that companies will look beyond Pennsylvania's borders, potentially leaving gas locked in place until the regulatory climate appears more receptive. He said he's concerned about the financial hit the state would take if industry leaves and impact fees and corporate tax revenue dwindle. Pennsylvania has collected an annual average of $209 million in impact fees since 2011, according to the Public Utility Commission.
Burcat said oil and gas executives he's spoken with are very concerned about the increasing cost of doing business in Pennsylvania. He predicted a snowball effect if companies become more embedded in other locations, which could lead them to shift all their business.
"They have a fiduciary duty to their companies to drill where it's going to be less expensive," he said.
September 12, 2016
eems all isn't well at the famous home shopping store. In the 80s, QVC was a marketing powerhouse using television as the main delivery vehicle. And then the Internet went public. It's our suspicion that QVC hasn't completely weaned itself from marketing impulse purchases via television, and is probably doomed. QVC is losing sales to the internet, more than it can withstand. It's also losing revenue, and employees.
QVC announced 100 layoffs today, which would be the fifth known layoff in the past eight years. QVC also laid off:
And, the Traditions property at Boot Road & Rt 202 appears to be back on the market.
So, who was it again that needed Boot Road widened?
September 8, 2016
By Brian McCullough, Daily Local News
Posted: 09/08/16, 3:56 PM EDT | Updated: 8 hrs ago
WEST GOSHEN >> For the second time in a year, home shopping network QVC is laying off workers from its West Chester area operation.
The company said 100 people were given notices on Wednesday. The reductions were not specific to a particular area of the business, said Colleen Rooney, vice president of global communications for QVC.
“Our vision at QVC is to change the way the world shops by reimagining shopping, entertainment and community as one,” Rooney said in a statement. “To achieve this vision we are constantly evaluating our structure to make sure we have the right resources and expertise to drive innovation and growth.
“To that end, we told our team today that we have made the difficult decision to reorganize some areas of our business and eliminate approximately 100 positions.”
A week ago, QVC opened its new West Coast Distribution Center in Ontario, California. That 1 million square foot facility is expected to produce 500 new jobs in Ontario by 2018 and an additional 500 jobs by 2020.
“... We are investing strategically in our business, growing retail platforms and adding positions that enhance our customer experience and further differentiate us in a competitive, dynamic retail marketplace,” Rooney continued. “For example, we opened our new West Coast Distribution Center last week with 160 positions, and we’ll add hundreds more as the center expands.
“We greatly value our team members and their contributions, and we will support impacted team members through this transition with a severance package, job counseling and other resources,” she said.
Last year, QVC filed notice with the state that it planned to lay off 147 people from its distribution operation in Chester County.
A company spokeswoman at that time said affected employees work in a “very small” distribution center that was no longer efficient to operate.
Much of that work was moved Florence, S.C.; some of the affected workers were given the opportunity to work at QVC’s distribution center in Lancaster County, the spokeswoman added. There are no more warehouse operations in the West Chester area.
At the end of 2015, QVC employed around 17,000 people, including 2,600 in the West Chester area operations, where the electronic retail giant broadcasts from its Studio Park headquarters off of Airport Road and has its headquarters.
QVC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Interactive Corp. It describes itself as the world’s leading video and ecommerce retailer.
Since 1986, QVC has shipped more than 1.8 billion packages in the U.S., with a single-day shipping record of approximately 800,000 units.
Laid off workers will be given the opportunity to apply to other positions within QVC, the company said.
September 8, 2016
The joint statement announcing this action was released today by the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior.
By: Kirsten West SavaliPosted: September 8, 2016
In the wake of the brave and unrelenting actions of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and water protectors, joined by other First Nations and non-native allies, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior released a joint statement announcing the halt of the Dakota Access/Bakken Pipeline pending further review.
The statement reads in part:
“We appreciate the District Court’s opinion on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act. However, important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain. Therefore, the Department of the Army, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior will take the following steps.
The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws. Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time. The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution. In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.
“Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects. Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions: (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals.
Read the complete statement here.
***Original story below***
The legal battle (pdf) to stop Energy Transfer Crude Oil—with approval from the United States government—from desecrating the sacred ancestral lands and endangering the water of North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux tribe turned violent Saturday when security officers attacked the land’s protectors with pepper spray and vicious dogs, Democracy Now reports.
According to Steve Sitting Bear, spokesperson for the Standing Rock tribe, six people—including a pregnant woman and a small child—were bitten by security dogs. At least 30 people were reportedly pepper-sprayed.
Though the term “protester” has dominated headlines since the 2014 Ferguson, Mo., uprising in response to the extrajudicial killing of Michael Brown Jr., many indigenous activists prefer to be called protectors instead of protesters. They believe the “term protester is a colonized term for standing up for what’s right”—and for many months, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other indigenous communities have been doing just that.
The Dakota Access Pipeline Project, also known as the Bakken Pipeline Project, was finally approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on July 27 after strong pushback from several tribes. The project is a 1,172-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline developed by Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Crude Oil. The owners of the Bakken-Dakota Access Pipeline Project are Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners (joint 38.25 percent stake); MarEn Bakken (36.75 percent interest); and Phillips 66 (25 percent). Security personnel contracted by the owners are responsible for the attack on the land’s protectors Saturday.
The pipeline is to transport approximately 470,000-570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Bakken-Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota, across South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois, before terminating in Pakota, Ill. The oil is to then be transported across the country to other markets, including refineries in the Midwest and on the East Coast.
With a $3.78 billion investment that will create an estimated 8,000-12,000 local jobs during the construction phase, the local economic impact—including an increase in hotels, restaurants and other services along the route—is projected to be enormous. Read about the projected economic impact of the pipeline here.
Per usual, this appears to be a resounding success for capitalism and imperialist empire; but it is a catastrophic loss and egregious insult to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Their reservation is only 1 mile north of where the pipeline will cross under the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, which is why the movement to protect the tribe’s water source—as well as stop any further destruction of ancestral land—continues to grow in intensity.
“The Missouri River is over 12,000 years old,” said Waniya Locke of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. “The Missouri River gives drinking water to 10 million people. We are protecting everyone. We are standing for everyone.”
“All permits have been granted,” she continued. “It really shows that the government can be bought out. They are not acknowledging that this is treaty land and it belongs to the Lakota-Dakota People according to the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.”
Writing for YES! Magazine, LaDonna Bravebull Allard, historic preservation officer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, laid bare the erasure of First Nations and the whitewashing of history that the United States government is so accustomed to perpetuating:
Of the 380 archeological sites that face desecration along the entire pipeline route, from North Dakota to Illinois, 26 of them are right here at the confluence of these two rivers. It is a historic trading ground, a place held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne.
The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people…Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history.
If we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories, our ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide?
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe filed an emergency motion Sunday for a temporary restraining order to prevent further development of the pipeline, reports Indian Country Now:
“On Saturday, Dakota Access Pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners brazenly used bulldozers to destroy our burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts [northwest of the confluence of the Cannon Ball and Missouri Rivers],” said Tribal Chairman David Archambault II (pdf). “They did this on a holiday weekend, one day after we filed court papers identifying these sacred sites. The desecration of these ancient places has already caused the Standing Rock Sioux irreparable harm. We’re asking the court to halt this path of destruction.”
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg sided with Standing Rock, ruling “that work will temporarily stop between North Dakota’s State Highway 1806 and 20 miles east of Lake Oahe, but will continue west of the highway because he believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lacks jurisdiction on private land,” reports ABC News.
NPR reports that the Army Corps has not pushed back against the order; instead, it “acknowledges that the public interest would be served by preserving peace near Lake Oahe until the court can render its well-considered opinion on plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction … therefore [it] does not oppose this short and discrete temporary restraining order.”
“The Missouri River is over 12,000 years old,” said Waniya Locke of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. “The Missouri River gives drinking water to 10 million people. We are protecting everyone. We are standing for everyone.
“All permits have been granted,” she continued. “It really shows that the government can be bought out. They are not acknowledging that this is treaty land and it belongs to the Lakota-Dakota People, according to the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.”
Writing for Yes! Magazine, LaDonna Bravebull Allard, historic preservation officer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, laid bare the erasure of First Nations and the whitewashing of history that the U.S. government is so accustomed to perpetuating:
Of the 380 archeological sites that face desecration along the entire pipeline route, from North Dakota to Illinois, 26 of them are right here at the confluence of these two rivers. It is a historic trading ground, a place held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne.
The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people. … Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history.
If we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories, our ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide?
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe filed an emergency motion Sunday for a temporary restraining order to prevent further development of the pipeline, Indian Country Now reports.
“On Saturday, Dakota Access Pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners brazenly used bulldozers to destroy our burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts [northwest of the confluence of the Cannon Ball and Missouri Rivers],” said Tribal Chairman David Archambault II (pdf). “They did this on a holiday weekend, one day after we filed court papers identifying these sacred sites. The desecration of these ancient places has already caused the Standing Rock Sioux irreparable harm. We’re asking the court to halt this path of destruction.”
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg sided with Standing Rock, ruling “that work will temporarily stop between North Dakota’s State Highway 1806 and 20 miles east of Lake Oahe, but will continue west of the highway because he believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lacks jurisdiction on private land,” ABC News reports.
NPR reports that the Army Corps has not pushed back against the order; instead, it “acknowledges that the public interest would be served by preserving peace near Lake Oahe until the court can render its well-considered opinion on plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction … therefore [it] does not oppose this short and discrete temporary restraining order.”
Over the past several months, representatives from more than 100 indigenous tribes from across the United States and Canada have traveled to North Dakota to show solidarity with Standing Rock, setting up home bases at the Camp of the Sacred Stones and the Red Warrior Camp at Standing Rock Reservation. These tribes have been joined by nonindigenous allies as well, with approximately 2,000 people in the area to show solidarity.
According to Jacqueline Keeler, writing for Telesur, “This is the first time since the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn that all seven council fires [of the Océti Sakówin or Great Sioux Nation] have camped together.”
“You think no one is going to help,” Frank White Bull, 48, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, told the Washington Post. “But the people have shown us they’re here to help us. We made our stance, and the Indian Nation heard us. It’s making us whole. It’s making us wanyi oyate—one nation. We’re not alone.”
Members of the Black Lives Matter network traveled to North Dakota to stand in solitary with the water protectors at Standing Rock, and the organization released the following statement:
Black Lives Matter stands with Standing Rock. As there are many diverse manifestations of Blackness, and Black people are also displaced Indigenous peoples, we are clear that there is no Black liberation without Indigenous sovereignty. Environmental racism is not limited to pipelines on Indigenous land, because we know that the chemicals used for fracking and the materials used to build pipelines are also used in water containment and sanitation plants in Black communities like Flint, Michigan. The same companies that build pipelines are the same companies that build factories that emit carcinogenic chemicals into Black communities, leading to some of the highest rates of cancer, hysterectomies, miscarriages, and asthma in the country. Our liberation is only realized when all people are free, free to access clean water, free from institutional racism, free to live whole and healthy lives not subjected to state-sanctioned violence. America has committed and is committing genocide against Native American peoples and Black people. We are in an ongoing struggle for our lives and this struggle is shaped by the shared history between Indigenous peoples and Black people in America, connecting that stolen land and stolen labor from Black and brown people built this country.
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and Green Party vice presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka joined protests Tuesday at the Red Warrior resistance camp. Stein spray-painted construction equipment and is expected to face charges of vandalism or trespassing at a construction site, the Bismarck Tribune reports.
Stein was also arrested in 2012 while protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline.
During a town hall Wednesday at Souphanouvong University in Luang Prabang, Laos, an attendee asked President Barack Obama what he could do about the destruction of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s “ancestral land, the supply of clean water, and environmental justice as a whole.”
Instead of answering the question directly, Obama said he was not familiar with the status of the Dakota pipeline and focused on what he described as his administration’s “investment” in building a relationship with the First Nations:
The way that Native Americans were treated was tragic. One of the priorities that I’ve had as president is restoring…an honest and generous and respectful relationship with Native American tribes. So we have made an unprecedented investment in meeting regularly with the tribes, helping them design ideas and plans for economic development, for education, for health, that is culturally appropriate for them. And this issue of ancestral land and helping them preserve their way of life is something that we have worked very hard. Now some of these issues are caught up with laws and treaties, so I can’t give you details on this particular case, I’d have to go back to my staff and find out how we’re doing on this one. But what I can tell you we have actually restored more rights among Native Americans to their ancestral lands, sacred sites, waters, hunting grounds, we have done a lot more work on that in the last eight years than we had in the previous 20-30 years, and this is something that I hope will continue as we go forward.
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about the pipeline in November 2015 and again Sept. 6.
We must join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many tribal nations fighting this dangerous pipeline. #NoDAPL https://t.co/WIeZdRZjqE
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) September 6, 2016
Neither Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton nor Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has issued a statement on the potential for water contamination or the destruction of the sacred ancestral lands surrounding Standing Rock.
Environmental racism is one of the most critical issues that we face and it must be rooted out and eradicated wherever it thrives. To that end, the “#NoDAPL Global Weeks of Solidarity Action” will run Sept. 3-17. For more information, visit this website. Find out what items are needed at Red Warrior Camp here.
September 8, 2016
"Mr. Brady, it is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." This, paraphrased is what's credited to Finley Peter Dunne (July 10, 1867 – April 24, 1936).
The Media is certainly afflicting Sunoco. The only love Sunoco, et al are getting is from the online screed they pay for.
September 6, 2016
September 5, 2016 | 10:00 AM
Democracy Now screen shot
by Will Bunch, Daily News Columnist @will_bunch
It was the kind of brutal scene that should have died out in the 1960s around the same time as the hula hoop and the twist -- security guards siccing vicious attack dogs on protesters trying to prevent an environmentally risky oil pipeline across sacred Native American lands in America's central prairie.
Members of North Dakota's Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, joined by hundreds of supporters on the rugged, remote plains, surely knew they weren't out for a picnic when they attempted to obstruct work on the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which they say will destroy burial rock piles, called cairns, and other sites of spiritual significance.
Last week, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues called on the United States and the pipeline's main backer, a firm called Energy Transfer Partners, to respect the objections of the Standing Rock Sioux to the project, calling for a "fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process to resolve this serious issue and to avoid escalation into violence and further human rights abuses."
Instead, with local law enforcement nowhere in sight, escalating violence and human rights abuses are exactly what was unleashed on the mostly Native American protesters this Saturday.
Video taken by the liberal journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now show pipeline security workers siccing attack dogs -- first on several horses carrying demonstrators and then on the allegedly trespassing but seemingly mostly non-violent protesters. Other marchers were blasted with some type of pepper spray.
A tribal spokesman said six people, including a child, were bitten and 30 people were sprayed with pepper spray or maced. Local authorities who only arrived afterwards called it "a riot" that they blamed solely on the protesters, not even acknowledging the injuries suffered by the Native Americans.
"I got maced twice, I got bit by a dog -- I was frontline," one male protester, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe who was bitten on the ankle, told Goodman. "Water is life," the man said of the protests. "Without water, we wouldn't be here."
While some pipeline workers were pushed back in Saturday's protest, work continued elsewhere. "This demolition is devastating," Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archaumbault II said in a statement. "These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground."
The tribal opponents have a powerful moral case against the Dakota Access Pipeline, but the desecration of Native American land is not the only thing driving the opposition. In Iowa, farmers whose land is being taken for the pipeline through eminent domain are up in arms. The risk of a spill that could poison water supplies for thousands in the vast Missouri River watershed looms large. The pipeline would carry as much as 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily through the Dakotas and Iowa; it's unclear whether the fossil fuels are even intended for United States consumers -- or for overseas shipments and big profits.
What's more, the Dakota Access Pipeline is objectionable for the same bigger reasons that the similar Keystone XL project was protested by so many and ultimately iced by the Obama administration: It will increase North America's addiction to fossil fuels at a time when -- as the New York Times noted in an remarkable report this weekend -- climate change is already here and rising sea levels are wreaking havoc.
Yet the native tribes and other citizens fighting to block this environmental abomination were treated with the same brand of violence and intimidation that the notorious sheriff Bull Connor had sicced on civil rights protesters in Birmingham a half century ago. That's more proof that the arc of the moral universe is bending too slowly.
The images out of North Dakota were sickening -- but so is something else about this pipeline endeavor.
A big chunk of money coming out of Pennsylvania is financing the dog siccers and the pepper sprayers -- including your tax dollars and mine.
It turns out that one of the major investors in Energy Transfer Partners is...the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Records show that as of this June, the commonwealth -- through its pension funds -- owned some 5 million shares of ETP -- valued at some $192 million. That's more than any other governmental or quasi-governmental agency. Other records show the bulk, if not all, of the investment is through the Pennsylvania Public Schools Retirement System, or PSERS, which has invested quite heavily in the energy sector (and not always for the greatest financial returns.)
The PSERS link isn't the only local connection. Sunoco Logistics Partners, which is headquartered in Newtown Square, is another key pipeline investor along with ETP, and the Dakota Access Pipeline is slated to feed into a Sunoco Logistics terminal. Sunoco is also slated to operate the pipeline -- if it's ever completed.
What an irony: Pennsylvania science teachers are out on the front lines teaching school kids about the impact of global warming at the same time their retirement dollars are hard at work building this monstrosity of a pipeline. What's more, many large entities -- universities as well as some city and state pension funds -- are currently in the process of divesting in fossil-fuel ventures like this one and looking, instead, to finance alternative energy projects such as solar or wind. How typical that the Keystone State is going in the other direction from the rest of the enlightened world.
It doesn't have to be this way. If you find these Bull Connor-type violent tactics to be unacceptable, if you find the desecration of indigenous shrines to be a moral outrage, or if you don't want your tax dollars pumping more carbon into the earth's atmosphere, then reach out to PSERS (phone number 1-888-773-7748, or contact them online). Tell them it's time to stop investing in firms like ETP that a) condone violence against protesters and b) contribute to the slow destruction of the planet. Also, pressure elected officials like Gov. Wolf to use their influence with PSERS to start divesting. And it would be fantastic to see Pennsylvania school teachers leading the way on this.
Can Pennsylvania and its pension funds save the world? I don't know. But the least they can do is call off the dogs.
Sept 5, 2016
September 5, 2016 | 10:00 AM
Susan Phillips / StateImpact PA
As landowners battle Sunoco Logistics in court over eminent domain takings, critics are pushing back against the pipeline on another front — permits the project needs from the state to move forward with construction. Sunoco has already begun felling trees along the 300-mile long proposed pipeline route through Pennsylvania, but the company can’t lay any pipe without erosion and sedimentation control permits from the Department of Environmental Protection. It also can’t cross any waterways without the water crossing permits.
The deadline for public comment period on the Chapter 105 permits, which regulate stream and wetlands crossings, has already passed. The deadline for public comment on the erosion and sediment control permits, known as Chapter 102, is Tuesday. Residents at recent public hearings on the pipeline project have complained that DEP went ahead with the public comment periods without having received completed permit applications from Sunoco.
“That’s what makes this different,” said Alex Bomstein, an attorney with the Clean Air Council, which along with several environmental and landowner organizations, submitted a 34-page detailed comment letter outlining the deficiencies in Sunoco’s permit applications for stream and wetland crossings.
But Bomstein, with the Clean Air Council, says Sunoco’s permits were so full of holes, he couldn’t even list all the deficiencies in the organization’s public comments.
“It’s not unusual for companies to submit incomplete applications,” said Bomstein. “It’s unusual in the degree to which these applications are incomplete.”
Bomstein says a consultant hired to review the applications for private landowners found a number of streams and wetlands not even listed on Sunoco’s permit applications. Municipalities have pointed out inaccurate maps. Penn Township, Westmoreland County reported to DEP that the maps sent to them by Sunoco were outdated, and where the company wanted to build an access road, now stands an office building.
A report submitted by the Delaware County Conservation District stated that the manager was unable to conduct a complete review. District Manager Edward Magargee detailed about two dozen issues with the permits, including questions on how potential damage to water crossings would be mitigated, and how arsenic contamination would be contained at the point where the pipeline would run through Linvilla Orchard. Magargee told StateImpact that it’s not unusual for permits to be incomplete.
“Very few plans get through on the first review,” he said.
Municipalities are required to check the erosion and sediment control plans for such projects against their own stormwater and floodplain plans, in accordance with Pennsylvania’s Stormwater Management Act, also known as Act 167. Bomstein says his own review found about 42 percent of municipalities found the permits consistent with their stormwater management plans, and about 54 percent determined it was consistent with floodplain plans. The others responded that the applications were too insufficient to make a determination. Some reported back to DEP that the permits did not comply with their stormwater or floodplain plans.
A spokesman for Sunoco Logistics says the company’s permit applications, along with the required Act 167 consistency letters are complete.
“Sunoco Pipeline’s applications went through a rigorous review by DEP, and they were found to be complete and were accepted for technical review,” wrote Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields in an email. “We are now moving forward through that process, and the comments received back from the counties and/or municipalities are part of that process.”
DEP says in order for the permits to be considered “administratively complete,” the stormwater and floodplain reviews from the municipalities do not have to be consistent with Sunoco’s erosion and sediment control permit applications.
This doesn’t sit well with Delaware County resident Eric Friedman, president of the Andover Homeowner’s Association, which includes land along the proposed pipeline route.
“Obviously if the applications were judged on their merits they would fail,” said Friedman in an email. “So apparently PADEP intends to let the applicant continue to patch up its applications after the declared public comment period is over. How can the public comment on what it hasn’t seen?”
Sept 5, 2016
Friday, September 2, 2016 at 5 a.m.
By Dianna Wray
At about 9 p.m. on August 12, contractors employed by Houston-based company L-Con were working on one of the main lines in Sunoco Pipeline LP's Nederland terminal when crude oil burst through a plug that was supposed to hold the oil back in the pipeline and ignited, according to lawsuits filed by the contract workers.
The crew was working with a pipe about 30 inches wide, located in the central area of the pipeline terminal. Crude oil is toted through these lines to other pipelines or to tankers and rail cars that move the product to whoever is buying it. Because the line is so busy, doing “hot work,” which is welding in an area that has hydrocarbons nearby, can be really tricky.
In this case, a plug made by Carber Holdings was supposed to stop any hydrocarbons in the pipeline from getting near the welding torches. The plug is fitted into the line and then locked in place. It is guaranteed not to fail, according to lawyer Edward Fisher, who is representing some of the workers who were injured that night. Once a plug is in place workers can snap other pieces into the line and weld them together. The plug is designed to handle a huge amount of pressure, even the full strength of a pipeline that is up and running, Fisher says.
Before the workers cut into the pipe to install the plug, all of the valves that let material flow into the pipe were supposed to be closed. Then a vacuum truck is brought in to suck any leftover material out of the line so it will be as empty as possible. The plan was to add more intersections to the pipe to allow Sunoco to move more materials. The installation on the south end of the pipeline was done without incident. Then the workers sliced into the line on the north side, planning to install a new valve on that side as well.
There were four valves in the immediate area and all of them were supposed to be closed. The workers were on a scaffold about 10 feet tall, welding torches sparking fire as they worked to get the extensions of the line welded into place. As welding operations were in progress, pressure built up inside the line, according to court records. The Carber plug allegedly blew out, hitting one of the workers in the chest. The crude oil that had been held back by the plug ignited, causing a flash fire. The workers were knocked off the platform to the ground, suffering injuries from the fall and severe burns, according to the lawsuits.
Since then, at least three of the seven workers reportedly injured that night have filed lawsuits against both Sunoco and Carber. We've asked Carber for comment on this. We'll update with it as soon as we hear back.
Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields stated via email that the investigation is ongoing, and thus the company is not commenting.
Edward Galvan was the first to file against the companies. Galvan was near one of the plugs when it supposedly failed, according to the lawsuit filed in state district court in Harris County. The force of the blast knocked off Galvan's welding mask and his face was “set ablaze” by the fire, according to the court documents.
Galvan is being represented by famed Houston attorney Tony Buzzbee and he's seeking $10 million or more, according to court documents.
Fisher, a lawyer with years of experience in workplace negligence lawsuits, is representing Juan Barboza and his brother Jose de Jesus Barboza in a lawsuit claiming negligence against Sunoco and Carber. The brothers were knocked off the platform and burned in the explosion and had to be flown by helicopter to Houston hospitals, according to the lawsuit. Fisher says he's asking for more than $1 million.
The incident is being investigated by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the Chemical Safety Board. However, both agencies are short on manpower and funding, OSHA can only fine up to $7,000 for the most serious offenses, and the CSB doesn't have any regulatory power at all. It will take months if not years for either agency to come out with any reports on the incident, Fisher says.
Meanwhile, it's clear based on federal records that Sunoco has dealt with these types of issues before. In fact there has been a steady series of incidents, leaks, fires and spills in recent years.
In 2005, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration investigated and fined Sunoco $150,000 after a pipeline facility overfilled and released more than 10,000 barrels of crude oil in Pennsylvania. Then, in 2006, the federal regulators conducted an on-site pipeline safety inspection of Sunoco's records and facilities in both Oklahoma and Texas, ultimately fining the company $119,000 for 19 violations.
Two years later there were two more violations, resulting in a $40,000 fine. The next year there was a fire during repair work on the West Texas Gulf Pipeline System, which caused a spill of more than 3,400 barrels of crude oil and a $415,000 fine.
That wasn't the end of Sunoco's tango with federal regulators.
The Philadelphia-based company drew the ire of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in 2015 when federal officials learned of an accident – previously unreported — that occurred while workers were performing pipeline modifications on the West Texas Gulf Pipeline Company, operated by Sunoco, on February 19, 2013 at the Wortham facilities.
During the work, there was a crude oil release and the oil ignited, sending at least one person to the hospital. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration only learned of the incident when the organization received a public information request.
Companies are required to give notice if hazardous materials are accidentally released and it causes an injury or death, or starts an unplanned fire. According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Sunoco didn't give initial notice of the accident or written notice of the accident, which is supposed to be submitted within 30 days.
As the agency continued to investigate, they also found Sunoco had made a number of mistakes leading up to the accident, according to the notice of probable violation and proposed compliance order issued last July. They found that Sunoco didn't follow written procedures, to verify employee qualifications or follow up on the accident after it occurred. Thus, one welder didn't have any operator qualifications and another one's qualifications had recently expired.
After the 2013 accident, Sunoco didn't review the incident with the involved employees to determine whether the procedures in place were enough to protect the workers. The company officials also failed to evaluate the employees before they went back to work – the valve the employees were installing before the fire was finished by those same employees a day later, according to the proposed compliance order. There wasn't a qualified inspector overseeing the work.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration also found that Sunoco wasn't following seven of its written procedures for “hot work” done at the station from fall 2012 through March 2013, just after the accident. And it didn't stop there. The company also wasn't following nine of the procedures for issuing work permits to the site, about 12 of the steps for a lockout program and eight written operator qualification program requirements, according to the proposed compliance order.
Sunoco didn't seem to have done much of its own investigating, in fact. They only gave the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration officials an incomplete and inconclusive report on the incident, according to the proposed compliance order.
We asked Shields about the 2009 and 2013 incidents. "Those incidents are still being adjudicated, so we would not comment," Shields replied.
On top of all of this, the regulators pointed out that the 2013 accident wasn't the first time Sunoco had found itself in this situation. There had been a similar accident while workers were doing similar maintenance work on a different Texas pipeline terminal in 2009. “Failure to identify the root cause of the 2009 accident allowed the recurrence of the same type of accident in 2013,” the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration notice states.
In July, after more than a year investigating, federal regulators proposed a $1.5 million civil penalty to the company for the unreported 2013 incident.
And then, just over a month later, there's another flash fire, one that Fisher says should have been easily prevented.
“Everyday steelworkers and welders go in and perform maintenance work on a pipe or expanding these pipeline structures,” Fisher says. “At this point, we've been doing this for years and we know how to do it safely so it should be done safely, but there are too many incidents still where people are burned severely or killed. It doesn't have to happen.”
September 2, 2016
David Yates Sep. 1, 2016, 12:38pm
BEAUMONT – The Reaud Morgan & Quinn law firm has brought a lawsuit seeking more than $1 million in damages against Sunoco Logistics on behalf of workers claiming they were exposed to a chemical cloud.
Patricia Alejandro Garcia and six other plaintiffs filed suit against Sunoco and S&B Engineers & Construction on Aug. 29 in Jefferson County District Court.
While Sunoco has been the target of lawsuits over the Aug. 12 flash fire at its Nederland terminal, this lawsuit alleges a different incident.
According to the petition, on Jan. 5, 2015 the plaintiffs were working at the Nederland Sunoco terminal while employed by Insulations Inc. They were insulator helpers working atop of scaffolding when, without warning, a thick chemical cloud descended upon them.
The chemical was later determined to be a chemical called “Purple K” and caused the plaintiffs to start coughing, hindering their breathing.
“Plaintiffs were scared and began to scramble to the ladders to escape the Purple K chemical that encircled them,” the suit states. “In the process of climbing down the ladder, the plaintiffs fell approximately fifteen feet to the ground causing severe injuries.”
The suit accuses the defendants of negligently failing to provide a safe work environment and warn them of the release of the toxic chemical.
If the evidence shows gross negligence, then the plaintiffs will seek to have a jury award punitive damages.
The workers are also seeking damages for their impairment, disfigurement, medical expenses, pain and loss of wages.
The other plaintiffs named in the suit include Gabriel Moreno, Jose Moreno, Samuel Moreno, Sammy Saldivar, Catalina Santos and Jonathan Gomez.
The plaintiffs are represented by RM&Q attorneys Glen Morgan and Taylor Miller.
Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, has been assigned to the case.
Case No. E-198919
Sept 1, 2016
Federal judge set to rule on effort to halt pipeline around Sept. 9
By Kris Maher
Sept. 1, 2016 11:41 a.m. ET
Protests against a $3.8 billion oil pipeline under construction in four states that is opposed by groups of Native Americans, landowners and environmentalists flared up Wednesday as police in Iowa and North Dakota arrested protesters for blocking access to one site and chaining themselves to heavy equipment at another.
The Dakota Access pipeline would carry crude oil more than 1,100 miles from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale formation to Illinois. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota has sued in federal court in Washington, D.C., to block the pipeline, alleging that it will harm cultural sites and endanger the tribe’s water supply.
A federal judge is expected to rule around Sept. 9 on whether to issue a preliminary injunction in the case to halt construction. The tribe has argued that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers improperly granted permits for the project.
In Boone County, Iowa, police arrested 30 people for trespassing on Wednesday after they formed a human chain to prevent workers from entering or leaving a site where land is being cleared to make way for the pipeline, according to Sheriff Gregg Elsberry.
Mr. Elsberry said there were about 100 protesters on the site in total on Wednesday. Some asked to be arrested but police didn’t act until people began to block vehicles trying to enter and exit the location, he said.
“We’re not in support of either side. We’re just here to keep the peace and safety,” Mr. Elsberry said. He said he would likely step up patrols of the site at night. “All we were told from some of the protesters was this will probably happen again.”
On Tuesday, a federal judge in Des Moines denied a request from the pipeline company to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent protests in Iowa. The company had said that construction equipment was burned and vandalized earlier this summer in the state, causing $3 million in damage.
Meanwhile, in North Dakota, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department arrested eight protesters Wednesday, including two men who chained themselves to the hydraulic arm of an excavator, after securing their arms around the equipment and covering them with PVC pipe.
The two men were charged with criminal trespassing, among other charges. One woman who stood next to the men on the equipment was arrested for refusing to get down. Others were arrested after they wouldn’t leave the area.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said police used equipment including harnesses to ensure the safety of the protesters while they were removed from the equipment. “Deputies took every precaution to ensure the safety of the protesters who attached themselves to the equipment,” he said in a statement.
Dakota Access is being built by Energy Transfer Partners LP and its affiliate, Sunoco Logistics Partners LP. Phillips 66, the refiner, owns a 25% stake. A spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners didn’t respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Jan Hasselman, a Seattle-based attorney with Earthjustice, which is representing the Standing Rock Sioux, said he was surprised to learn at a court hearing last week that nearly all of the clearing and grading required for the pipeline has been completed.
He said that in the tribe’s view the entire pipeline falls within the ancestral territory of the Sioux, and the tribe wants to protect sacred sites and other areas that can still be protected.
“Construction is much further along than anyone ever imagined,” he said. “We are dismayed to see that their strategy of jamming this thing through without the appropriate protections looks like it’s succeeding.”
Write to Kris Maher at email@example.com
Sept 1, 2016
August 30th, 2016 by Aisha Abdelhamid
Originally published on EdenKeeper.org
Holding down two fronts in the battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Native Americans and supporters are swelling in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, and outside a courthouse in Washington, D.C.
Joining several hundred members of North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in D.C., actors Susan Sarandon, Shailene Woodley, and Riley Keough added their voices of support. Everyone was awaiting the judge’s decision to impose a legal injunction halting the pipeline’s construction.
Filed by EarthJustice on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the legal motion called for a preliminary injunction on the Dakota Access Pipeline because it threatens to desecrate sacred tribal lands and pollute the water. Traveling through the Tribe’s ancestral lands, it will also pass within a half of a mile of the present Sioux reservation. EarthJustice stated, “An oil spill at this site would constitute an existential threat to the Tribe’s culture and way of life.”
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II added, “The pipeline presents a threat to our lands, our sacred sites and our waters, and the people who will be affected must be heard.”
With about 15,000 members across the US, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has around 8,000 members living on tribal lands in North Dakota. Archambault and Tribe officials say that, by crossing Lake Oahe and the Missouri River, the pipeline will disturb sacred sites and burial grounds on ancestral Treaty lands.
Archambault stated, “We have laws that require federal agencies to consider environmental risks and protection of Indian historic and sacred sites. But the Army Corps has ignored all those laws and fast-tracked this massive project just to meet the pipeline’s aggressive construction schedule.”
The Tribe fears the pipeline could spill and contaminate the river, which supplies irrigation and drinking water, and holds great spiritual and cultural value for Native Americans.
EarthJustice Attorney Jan Hasselman noted, “Pipelines spill and leak—it’s not a matter of if, but when. Construction will destroy sacred and historically significant sites. We need to take a time out and ensure that the Corps follows the law before rushing ahead with permits.”
In January 2015, more than 50,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil spilled into Montana’s Yellowstone River. In 2010, the Kalamazoo River in Michigan was the site of an even worse pipeline spill. One million gallons of toxic bitumen crude oil spilled into the river, costing over one billion dollars to clean up. Contamination still remains there, reports Earthjustice.
210,000 gallons of crude oil leaked out of a 16-inch pipeline just south of Staples, MN, in December 2009. “Pipelines spill and leak—it’s not a matter of if, but when,” says EarthJustice attorney Jan Hasselman. Credit: EarthJustice.org
210,000 gallons of crude oil leaked out of a 16-inch pipeline just south of Staples, MN, in December 2009. “Pipelines spill and leak—it’s not a matter of if, but when,” says EarthJustice attorney Jan Hasselman. Credit: EarthJustice.org
The Dakota Access Pipeline
The Dakota Access Pipeline is also known at the Bakken Oil Pipeline. It is a $3.8 billion project being built by a group of companies led by Energy Transfer Partners, including Sunoco Logistics Partners, Phillips 66, and others.
The controversial pipeline threatens far more than sacred Native Americans’ ancestral lands. Covering 1,168 miles, it also threatens farms, communities, wildlife habitats, and sensitive natural areas. Expected to transport 450,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil a day, it will traverse North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. From there it will be linked up with another pipeline transporting the oil to US Gulf Coast terminals and refineries.
North Dakota’s Camp of the Sacred Stones
As the crowd of Native Americans, activists, and supporters demonstrating outside the US District Court in Washington, DC, is growing, the crowd in North Dakota is swelling, too. The Camp of the Sacred Stones, as the protest site has been named, has grown to over 2,500 people living in trailers, teepees, and tents four miles north of Cannon Ball.
In April, when the grassroots campaign against Dakota Access began, there were only a few dozen activists in the camp. When the US Army Corps of Engineers approved the section of pipeline crossing waterways near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in late July, the tribe and fellow activists sued to stop construction. Gaining media attention and support, people began arriving in the hundreds to join the protest.
The Tribe’s legal suit argues that the Corps of Engineers did not adequately survey the route for cultural artifacts, nor fully assess the pipeline’s environmental impacts. It also alleges that the pipeline violates the National Historic Preservation Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.
August 31, 2016
By Larry Buhl • Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - 04:58
New and protracted battles in the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) war are breaking out across Pennsylvania and other states near the Marcellus Shale over pipeline companies’ use of eminent domain.
The fiercest battle pits Philadelphia-based Sunoco Logistics against homeowners in the path of a pipeline that crosses Pennsylvania. In a controversial move invoking eminent domain, Sunoco aims to seize private lands to make room for a pipeline extension that would move highly volatile liquids (HVL) used in the making of plastics from the Marcellus Shale region to eastern Pennsylvania.
With an air of inevitability, opponents say, Sunoco is planning to move ahead with Mariner East II, a retrofit and extension of an existing east-west pipeline that was once used to ship gasoline westward from Philadelphia’s refineries.
The converted pipeline would move 70,000 barrels of highly volatile liquids, including butane, ethane, and propane, across Pennsylvania daily. Its terminus would be the Delaware-Pennsylvania border, at the company’s Marcus Hook facility, which Sunoco is also transforming to handle natural gas products, and where the company is building a plant to convert propane into propylene, a building-block commodity of petrochemicals.
Natural gas from the northeast has traditionally been sent to Louisiana and Texas to be processed for domestic use or shipped overseas. In moving highly volatile natural gas liquids, byproducts of natural gas production, Sunoco Logistics is aiming for a faster route to a coast. Using its Marcus Hook facility would give the company a new source of revenue and make use of the expansion of natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale.
Sunoco’s primary market for these natural gas liquids is a refinery in Scotland that manufactures plastics.
Claiming “Public Benefit” for Private Profits
The potential windfall for Sunoco may be the reason for what opponents say are strong arm tactics to seize private property in the path of the pipeline extension, tactics that include invoking eminent domain, even though it’s a private, for-profit company rather than a government entity, and even though, they say, it has not proven that the pipeline would contribute a “public benefit.” Both conditions are traditionally required for landowners to forfeit property in eminent domain disputes.
Sunoco argues that their use of eminent domain is justified because Mariner East II will provide a public benefit by providing extra propane to residents in offload points throughout the state.
And the company has won the latest battle. In July, a Pennsylvania state appeals court ruled that Sunoco was operating as a public utility and that the Mariner East II pipeline is both interstate and intrastate and was therefore subject to jurisdiction by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).
The majority opinion in the 5-2 decision gave Sunoco a certificate of public convenience for 17 counties along the path of Mariner East II.
Alec Bomstein, a senior litigation attorney with the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council, which was a plaintiff challenging Sunoco’s public utility status last year, scoffs at the public benefits Sunoco claims to be providing.
“The primary purpose of Mariner East II is, one, to make money for a for-profit, private corporation, and two, to export natural gas products overseas,” Bomstein tells DeSmog. “Saying that they’re going to help residents by providing an additional 70,000 barrels of propane a day is a red herring, because that kind of capacity is not needed in the state.”
Bomstein adds that calling Sunoco Logistics a public utility is absurd because it is not regulated nor held to the standards of a utility.
Sunoco Logistics, which is owned by Energy Transfer Partners, did not respond to DeSmog’s requests for comment.
The Clean Air Council and other opponents of Mariner East II decry Sunoco’s reliance on an ancient document to claim its status as a public utility, a move that wouldn’t carry weight in another state. In 1930 the Pennsylvania Public Service Commission, a precursor to the state PUC, granted the Susquehanna Pipe Line Company a certificate of public convenience, allowing the company to build a pipeline to move gasoline from Philadelphia refineries to western counties.
Beyond crying foul over Sunoco’s evoking of eminent domain, homeowners and municipalities are worried about safety.
The Danger of Transporting Highly Volatile Liquids (HVL)
Highly Volatile Liquids (HVL) including ethane, propane, and butane are flammable gasses when released into the air. The gas is also heavier than air, which means it doesn’t disperse easily.
Nevertheless, highly volatile liquids are classified as liquids by the federal government. Because of this, operators don’t need to develop area-specific response plans for leaks. That’s something that worries Eric Friedman, an officer of a homeowner association in suburban Philadelphia. Sunoco has attempted to seize open space in his development that would put a pipeline extension literally a few hundred feet from existing homes.
“Sunoco has a generic response plan for leaks,” Friedman tells DeSmog. “It’s to go upwind, walk, don’t drive, a half-mile or more. That’s it. Well, how do you know there’s a leak when you can’t smell the gas, and how do you know which way the wind is blowing?”
Friedman adds that many people live within the so-called blast zone of the proposed pipeline. “This situation has left many people completely voiceless and defenseless with respect to their ability to mitigate the risk of highly volatile liquids infrastructure.”
And then there’s Sunoco’s abysmal safety record. Documents at the United States Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) show that Sunoco has the worst safety record of 1,518 active pipeline operators that report operating data to PHMSA.
Friedman, who along with his homeowner board of directors are looking at ways to fight the company’s actions in the Delaware County court, says Sunoco offered no money for the land.
He agrees with Bomstein that the “public good” defense used by Sunoco to seize land is absurd.
“There’s no economic benefit to this area. It will be economic blight. Ancient trees will be torn down. Our homes will be worth less because of the danger of leaks,” Friedman said.
Pipeline Property Battles on Several Fronts
The controversy over whether a private company can take private land to build pipelines is not settled.
There are many fronts to the pipeline war in several states, including upcoming court cases and possible legislative action.
In February, the Kentucky state supreme court upheld a lower court ruling which found a pipeline company is not a public utility and therefore could not use eminent domain for natural gas liquids pipelines.
Fifteen Ohio families are fighting Texas pipeline company Kinder Morgan’s use of eminent domain, claiming that seizure of land by private pipeline corporations violates the Ohio Constitution’s strict protection of private property rights.
In Pennsylvania, Friedman is focusing on informing General Assembly members and those running for local and state office about the risks. He says the eminent domain issue may, as in Kentucky, be decided in the state supreme court. If that happens, the court will have to decide how broad the power of eminent domain is in the state, and define what constitutes public good.
And with oil and gas pipeline construction projects on the rise across the nation, observers on both sides will eagerly await the results.
August 31, 2016
Wednesday, August 24, 2016 8:32 p.m. CDT
By Ruthy Munoz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Actors Susan Sarandon, Riley Keough and Shailene Woodley joined members of North Dakota's Standing Rock Sioux Tribe outside a courthouse in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to protest against construction of a pipeline they say would pollute water and desecrate sacred land.
About 100 members of the Native American group demonstrated outside the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia while others filled a courtroom inside where a legal battle unfolded over the $3.7 billion project.
The 1,100 mile (1770.28 km) pipeline, being built by a group of firms led by Energy Transfer Partners, would be the first to bring Bakken shale from North Dakota directly to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The group behind the pipeline, called Dakota Access, had planned to start operations in the fourth quarter of this year, but construction has been dogged since April by protests in North Dakota, and some work has been halted.
A Dakota Access spokeswoman said earlier this week that the company has "temporarily deferred grading activities" across a short section of the right-of-way, while "law enforcement works to contain the unlawful protests."
Tribal leaders say it is they that need the protection of the law.
"In our land, it was never protected, it was just taken and they strategically placed the dams so that tribal lands would get flooded," said David Archambault II, chairman of the tribe, speaking outside the courtroom in Washington on Wednesday.
Dakota Access filed a restraining order against Archambault and other members of the tribe in federal court in North Dakota earlier this month.
In turn, the tribe has sought a preliminary injunction in Washington to halt pipeline construction, accusing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of violating historic preservation and environmental laws by approving the pipeline, which would cross just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.
The Army Corps of Engineers declined comment on Wednesday.
The tribe says the pipeline would leave it vulnerable to contamination from oil spills and would damage historic and culturally significant sites in violation of the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act.
Supporters of the pipeline have said in court filings that it would provide a safer and more cost-effective way to transport Bakken shale to the U.S. Gulf than by road or rail.
On Wednesday, District Court Judge James Boasberg held a hearing on the tribe's motion for a preliminary injunction, and said he would announce his decision by Sept. 9. He set a status hearing for Sept. 14.
In the meantime, work on the pipeline will go no further, as Dakota Access waits for permissions to cross certain federal lands, which must be authorized by the Army Corps of Engineers and approved by Congress.
Outside the court, Sarandon and other celebrities showed support for the tribe.
"I'm here as a mother and a grandmother to thank the people of the Standing Rock community for bringing our attention to this horrible thing that is happening to their land, which in turn will endanger all of us ... because all of our waters are connected," said Sarandon, the Oscar-winning actress known for social and political activism.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has 15,000 members throughout the United States with 6,000 to 8,000 living on tribal lands in North Dakota.
Other participants in Dakota Access include Sunoco Logistics Partners and Phillips 66. Earlier this month, Enbridge Inc and Marathon Petroleum Corp announced it would take a minority stake in the pipeline.
(Reporting by Ruthy Munoz; Additional reporting by Catherine Ngai; Editing by Bill Rigby)
August 24, 2016
By Dan Wallach Updated 11:40 am, Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Seven workers were injured in a flash fire at Sunoco Logistics' Nederland terminal. The men are being treated for burns at local and regional hospitals. The facility stores crude oil, natural gas liquids and refined products.
Seven workers were injured in a flash fire at Sunoco Logistics' Nederland terminal. The men are being treated for burns at local and regional hospitals. The facility stores crude oil, natural gas liquids and ... more
Although industrial accidents like a recent flash fire at Sunoco Logistics in Port Arthur have declined sharply over the past 20 years, a recent survey found "risk-taking" continues to be a factor in deaths and injuries.
Despite the better long-term record, the survey shows the industrial workplace is still dangerous.
Part of what makes it dangerous is younger contract workers with fewer years in their respective crafts like welding.
Among workers involved in the incidents, 43 percent had fewer than five years in their crafts and 34 percent had between five and 10 years of experience, the survey found.
The survey suggested more intensive training as one remedy.
Since 2013, several workplace deaths have occurred in Southeast Texas, including at least one so far this year.
A Brownsville man died in May when a pipe fell on him during maintenance work on a heat exchanger at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Beaumont. The death occurred a day after a Jefferson County district court judge approved a confidential settlement in the deaths of two contract workers killed after an April 2013 fire at Exxon Mobil, an incident that also injured six others.
In September 2015, a contract worker operating a bulldozer near scalding petroleum coke pits at the Total Port Arthur refinery died when his dozer slipped down the side of the pit. The bulldozer was in use because an overhead crane normally in service was broken.
In August 2014, four men were killed when the scaffold they were erecting in Hardin County touched a live high-voltage power line.
The most recent was the flash fire at Sunoco on Aug. 12, in which at least four contract workers were burned.
Although the incidents show the continued possibility of tragedy in such workplaces, the trend line for sheer numbers is sharply down, said John Durkay, general counsel for the Industrial Safety Training Council.
"No accident is ever acceptable," Durkay said. "Our incident rates and the seriousness are well below state and national averages."
The Golden Triangle Business Roundtable incident survey shows total number of "OSHA recordables," meaning incidents that result in injury or lost time, have decreased overall since 1993.
The root cause of most incidents was "decision-making and risk-taking," the survey found.
Data from the early 1990s through 2014 show a 99-percent reduction in severity of injuries and a 95-percent reduction in overall injury incidents, the business roundtable reported.
The data, however, is voluntarily reported by industry members and does not include all industrial incidents with injuries in Jefferson, Hardin and Orange counties, Durkay said.
From the labor viewpoint, workplace rules have improved because contractors are now required to obey the same safety rules as plant employees, said W. Ruelle Parker, president of the Sabine Area Central Labor Council, a representative of a variety of industrial crafts. Parker is retired from the Valero Energy Corp. refinery in Port Arthur, where he worked as a member of the local operating union, United Steelworkers Local No. 13-423.
"If everyone does what they're supposed to, there ought not to be an accident, but it's no guarantee," Parker said of the flash fire at Sunoco Logistics. "We won't know for sometime what actually happened."
A lawsuit filed in Harris County on behalf of one of the burned workers says a plug exploded from a pressurized line, erupting in a fire that critically burned the worker and at least three others. The workers were welding on a pipe leading to a new crude oil storage tank.
The lawsuit names Sunoco Logistics and the maker of the plug, Carber, as defendants. The contractor who hired the workers, L-Con Inc., of Houston, is not named as a defendant.
The lawsuit said Sunoco represented that the "line was clean, clear, and ready for work." The plaintiff, Edward Galvan, and the other workers were instructed to work on a scaffold more than 10 feet above the ground, according to the filing.
As Galvan and the others began to work, pressure began building inside the line. According to the suit, the 30-inch plug designed and installed by Carber failed and was ejected from the line, striking Galvan in the chest and shoulder. The lawsuit states alleges that crude oil within the line then ignited, causing a flash fire.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board are investigating the incident, as are Sunoco Logistics and L-Con.
The workplace accident survey used data from more than 46 million exposure hours and 54 recordable incidents; five with lost time, 13 restricted-duty and 36 medical treatment cases, it said.
Among workplaces where incidents have occurred in the 20 years of surveys, 42 percent were at refineries and 21 percent were at chemical plants.
The survey showed that men accounted for 96 percent of the incidents, and two-thirds of them involved men aged 18 to 40 years old.
Pipe fitters and laborers accounted for 30 percent of the accidents and 77 percent were in their craft for fewer than 10 years.
The Golden Triangle Business Roundtable's recommendations included increasing worker awareness of the surrounding physical hazards and emphasizing proper job training and good decisions.
"Decision-making continues to be reported as leading accident causes and risk-taking continues to be a pre-existing cause for accidents," the report said.
"From the late 1980s, fires, explosions and fatalities were an expected occurrence," Durkay said. "We want a robust commitment to safety. Some areas are cutting back. We need constant vigilance."
Parker said contractors within plants once were not held to the same standard as union members.
"It's not like it used to be," Parker said. "A lot of it has to do with how people are trained."
August 24, 2016
Posted: 08/24/16, 10:02 PM EDT | Updated: 2 days ago
It is the ultimate good news, bad news scenario.
Delaware County has the potential to be an the energy hub of the entire northeastern United States.
How? By breathing new life into Sunoco’s shuttered Marcus Hook refinery, refitting it to handle byproducts from the state’s natural gas business. The plan is to bring butane, ethane and other chemicals to Marcus Hook, creating hundreds of good-paying jobs in the process.
So what’s the downside?
Well, that depends on how you feel about having a pipeline in your backyard.
Those materials are not going to be trucked into Delaware County. They are not piggybacking on those oil trains that are currently snaking their way through much of the county as they make their way to a terminal in Eddystone on the Delaware River.
They’re going to get here via a pipeline. In fact, some of it is already arriving, utilizing the existing pipeline that Sunoco used for years for oil.
But if their spinoff, Sunoco Logistics, gets its way, the company will build two new pipelines as part of what it has dubbed its Mariner East 2 plan.
The pipeline will traverse 350 miles of the Pennsylvania countryside, crossing through 17 counties, 2,700 properties, along with numerous streams, wetlands and pristine, wooded areas.
To get to Marcus Hook, the pipeline would sit not far away from Sunoco’s current pipeline that runs through Middletown, Aston, Thornbury and Edgmont.
But before any of that can happen, Sunoco needs to get approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection because of all those waterways and wetlands in their path. They need the OK for each of those 17 affected counties, and also need a green light from the municipalities.
That is what brought a crowd to this week’s meeting of Middletown council.
As you might have expected, not everyone is a fan of this project. Neither are they especially thrilled about the way Sunoco has gone about dealing with local residents. The company already has had a major falling out with some Chester County residents over a pumping station they were proposing for a site in West Goshen.
Sunoco needs Middletown to sign off on their plans for a 50-foot easement to construct, operate and maintain two pipelines, underground facilities and above-ground markers on four township-owned parcels. It also needs a 12-foot-wide, perpetual right-of-way for easements to be used for access roads along three township-owned roads.
The township sites targeted would be for facilities on open space at Sleighton Park, the Hillcrest and Linvill tracts and Old Mill Pointe. The rights-of-way would be on a road adjacent to Glenwood Elementary School and two roads on the Turnbridge parcel.
Yes, you read that right — one of these right-of-ways for the pipeline would run right beside an elementary school.
That certainly was on the minds of some residents who attended Monday night’s council meeting, including Tom Smith, whose daughter goes to Glenwood.
“We need to look at this from a risk perspective,” Smith told council. “My daughter goes to Glenwood and it is not a risk I am willing to take.”
Other residents sounded a similar tune, expressing concerns about safety, inspections, who would be responsible in the event of an accident, access to the school, property values and a host of other issues.
Resident Leslie Campo wondered about what happens after the pipeline is up and running, and who would be responsible for its operation.
“Who is looking out for us?” she asked her elected township officials.
They’re legitimate, real concerns when a pipeline decides to move into the neighborhood.
To get a feel for how strong the opposition to the plan is already, a petition opposing the pipeline plan, posted online less than 24 hours before Monday night’s meeting, already had gathered 400 signatures.
They’ve already accomplished one thing. They asked the council to delay any vote on the project for at least 30 days to allow the community more time to consider the proposal.
Council took their advice, putting off any action until at least the Sept. 26 meeting. The measure likely will be reintroduced at the Sept. 12 council meeting. In addition to their residents’ concerns, council also heard from their solicitor that the company had not yet agreed to some changes the township has suggested.
Sunoco no doubt will take much of this in stride. It already held one large public hearing to lay out its plans for the project.
Sunoco can likely expect similar outcries in Edgmont, Middletown, Aston and Upper Chichester, the 11.4 miles the pipeline will meander from the Chester County line until it reaches paydirt in Marcus Hook.
The current pipeline is bringing 70,000 barrels of offshoots from the Marcellus Shale region.
When it’s up and running the new pipelines are expected to carry 680,000 barrels a day to the Hook.
Sunoco Logistics is vowing to adhere to the highest safety standards, both during construction and with the utmost in monitoring once the operation is up and running.
The economic gain is without question. Marcus Hook and the lower end of the county took a punch in the gut when the refinery business hit the rocks.
Sunoco Logistics is offering a lifeline – actually an entirely new life – through its Mariner East 2 plans.
But it does not come without risks, and serious concerns.
Residents need to be reassured that their new neighbor will not be a nuisance.
Now and in the future.
August 24, 2016
Lebanon Daily News 1:55 p.m. EDT August 23, 2016
A recent Guest Editorial signed by Anthony J. Seiwell, a member of Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), extolled the virtues of Natural Gas, Natural Gas Infrastructure and the Mariner East 2 (ME2) pipeline project. The Sunoco Logistic’s proposed ME2 to which he refers will carry Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs), not Natural Gas (NG), as implied.
There are differences between NG and NGLs. NGLs are components of NG separated out primarily for industrial use. NGLs include ethane, propane and butane. They are gases at ambient temperature and pressure but act as liquids under high pressure. They are even more explosive than NG and are tasteless, odorless, colorless, and heavier than air.
The proposed ME2 is a 300+ mile pipeline crossing PA from west to east passing through 17 Counties (including Lebanon). ME2 would include two pipelines, a 16 inch and a 20 inch carrying NGLs under very high pressure.
Mike Hennigan, CEO for Sunoco Logistics, stated that the NGLs are being shipped to Marcus Hook, PA for shipment overseas for use in plastics manufacturing. As stated by Don Zoladkiewicz with Sunoco, no odor agent is being added to the NGLs because of the smell that would be left in the plastic.
There are at least 3 major and troubling issues surrounding the Mariner East 2 Pipeline controversy.
The first issue, not mentioned by Mr. Seiwell, is the possible granting of “eminent domain” (the taking of private property for public use) to a private company by the PA courts. Sunoco has alleged it has this authority to take property from 2,700 landowners for easements for its pipeline project. The granting of eminent domain requires that the use for which the property is taken will serve and benefit the public. Sending the gases overseas is not a benefit or service to the PA Public. The use of eminent domain for this pipeline is currently being litigated in our courts and will ultimately be decided by the PA Supreme Court.
Safety is a second major issue. NGLs, when leaked from a pipeline, will either violently blow their way to the surface or work their way upward to the surface in a very cold state (characteristic of a highly pressurized gas when released) and accumulate in depressions. Contact with any ignition source such as a passing car, the gas will explode into a burning inferno moving with the wind across the land incinerating everything in its path. NG, although lighter than air will act similarly to NGLs. Since 2010, the beginning of the pipeline boom, 133 people have been injured and another 33 killed in over 190 accidents involving gas pipelines.
Pipelines, contrary to what Mr. Seiwell and gas pipeline companies proclaim, are not a safe mode of transportation. The leak detection techniques used by pipeline companies have been shown to only be able to detect 5.0% of the leaks. The reason for this is that detection techniques look for drops in pressure that must be over 1.5 to 2.0% of the daily volume. The smaller leaks can go undetected for long periods of time even weeks. Time enough for a large cloud of the gas to accumulate on the surface and ignite into a moving inferno. Would you want one of these gas pipelines anywhere near your home??
The third issue is the alleged economic benefits. Mr. Siewell makes many unfounded and unsupported claims of jobs and economic benefits to be derived from the construction of NG pipelines and by inference, this NGL pipeline. He claims that the ME2 will create 17,000 new temporary jobs and add $3 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy. Interestingly, six months ago, Sunoco was claiming the ME2 would create 30,000 new temporary jobs. Permanent jobs will represent a very small fraction of the total.
Mr. Siewell’s editorial is filled with omissions and obfuscations of facts and reads like a Sunoco advertisement. In reality, the ME2 Pipeline threatens the property rights of many landowners in PA, endangers the safety of thousands of residents and would do very little for the Lebanon County and PA economy.
- Douglas Lorenzen, West Cornwall Township
August 23, 2016
By Joe Napsha | Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, 11:05 p.m.
Business, labor and government leaders who touted the economic benefits of a planned $2.5 billion pipeline to carry natural gas liquids across the state squared off Thursday at a public hearing with opponents, including landowners and environmentalists.
Supporters of Sunoco Logistics L.P.'s proposed 350-mile pipeline from eastern Ohio to refineries at Marcus Hook near Philadelphia outnumbered opponents by about 2-to-1 at the two-hour public hearing, which was conducted by the state Department of Environmental Protection at Westmoreland County Community College near Youngwood. A crowd of about 140 attended.
Nearly 30 people testified during what was the last in a series of public hearings the state held on Sunoco's applications for permits to run the pipeline through wetlands and streams, and for regulating erosion and sediment control.
Sunoco Logistics wants to build a pipeline to ship natural gas liquids — such as butane and propane — from Ohio and West Virginia through Washington and Westmoreland counties en route to refineries near Philadelphia. The project would consist of two pipelines built along a route parallel to the Mariner East 1 line, which transports natural gas.
Studies have shown that the Mariner East 2 pipeline project would create 30,000 indirect and direct jobs during its construction phase and generate about $4.2 billion in economic activity, said Joseph Kirk, executive director of the Mon Valley Alliance, a Monessen-based economic development organization.
“It's the perfect balance that uses the power of energy while ensuring we protect our environment,” Kirk said.
To Chris Petrone, legislative director of the International Union of Operating Engineers in Monroeville, the natural gas industry has meant the difference between employment and unemployment for 10 to 20 percent of the organization's 7,000 members.
“Sunoco is committed to hiring local labor,” Petrone said.
A group of environmentalists from the Sierra Club of Pennsylvania and the Mountain Watershed Association in Fayette County deployed a strategy of attacking Sunoco's applications for what they said are numerous deficiencies. Sunoco's pipeline would cross 2,700 private properties, 581 wetlands and 1,227 streams.
Melissa Marshall, a community advocate for the watershed association, claimed there are frequent omissions in Sunoco's applications for the permits.
The applications are incomplete and should be rejected, she said.
Doug Shields of Pittsburgh said supporters failed to take into account that the hearing was to focus on the potential environmental impact of the pipeline, not the economic benefits.
Lido “Lee” Pinto of Salem became emotional when he criticized Sunoco's taking of his land by eminent domain.
“I'm going through living hell with this pipeline,” Pinto said. “The power of eminent domain is a crock.”
The DEP will review testimony from the hearings and send a letter to Sunoco.
John Poister, a DEP spokesman, said the state does not have a specific deadline for rendering a decision on the permit applications.
August 20, 2016
Brooke Lewis Published 2:35 pm, Tuesday, August 16, 2016
A worker injured in an explosion at a crude oil terminal Friday night in Southeast Texas filed a lawsuit Monday against Sunoco and Carber, accusing the companies of causing the explosion.
Edward Galvan, a welder for L-Con Inc. who remains hospitalized with injuries he sustained during the explosion, was working at the crude oil terminal owned by Sunoco on Friday night in Nederland near Beaumont.
According to the lawsuit filed in Harris County court, Sunoco officials told L-Con workers to "conduct welding operations on two flanges on a closed line at the facility."
The lawsuit said that Sunoco represented that the "line was clean, clear, and ready for work." Galvan and the other workers were instructed to work on a scaffold more than 10 feet above the ground.
As Galvan and the others began to work, pressure began building inside the line. According to the suit, the 30-inch plug designed and installed by Carber failed and was ejected from the line, striking Galvan in the chest and shoulder.
The lawsuit states that crude oil within the line then ignited, causing a flash fire.
The explosion caused Galvan's welding mask to be knocked off, "setting his face ablaze," the suit said.
Liquid fire covered his face, neck, and upper chest. He managed to tear off several pieces of clothing and then jump off the scaffold. The lawsuit states that if Galvan had not jumped off, he likely would "have been burned alive."
He was flown by Life Flight to Memorial Hermann's burn unit, where he is receiving extensive treatment. Galvan is seeking a lawsuit to "recover for injuries sustained as a result of this incident."
Seven workers in total were also injured in the explosion.
August 19, 2016
Last night the West Goshen Board voted down a plan to restripe Boot Road after a brief presentation by Carrol Engineering.
The main detail was it wouldn't involve physically widening Boot Road, the existing road would be restriped.
Residents voiced concerns about safety, mostly about the loss of the shoulder and speeders driving on Boot Road. When questioned by a resident, the planners admitted there weren't any residential safety studies done.
After a brief commentary period by residents, the WG BOS rejected the restriping plan 4 to 1.
August 18, 2016
David Yates Aug. 17, 2016, 3:09pm
BEAUMONT – The Provost Umphrey Law Firm in Beaumont has been retained to represent two victims of the Aug. 12 flash fire at the Sunoco Logistics crude oil terminal in Nederland.
Both of the firm's clients injured in the flash fire remain hospitalized for treatment of severe burns and related injuries, according to a press release.
PU attorneys Matthew Matheny and Edward Fisher have procured a preservation agreement at the scene of the incident and will be leading an investigation on behalf of their clients.
"It's important to preserve the location and allow investigators and experts to better determine the causes of the accident and what might have prevented this tragedy," said Matheny. "We'll be talking to witnesses and examining any records of safety and maintenance procedures at the facility. This was a horrible accident, and we are prepared to find out why it occurred."
According to initial reports, seven workers were injured while doing some welding at the Sunoco terminal, which handles crude oil, condensate, naphtha, base and extract oils.
Both Matheny and Fisher are experienced industrial accident attorneys who are Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, the press release states.
Most recently, Matheny served on the litigation team that resolved the cases of several severely burned and deceased victims of the 2013 ExxonMobil refinery explosion.
Fisher successfully represented the families of all seven victims of the worst refinery explosion in Washington state history - the 2010 Tesoro refinery explosion in Anacortes.
Earlier this year, Fisher obtained a jury verdict of $4.2 million following the death of a worker involved in an industrial accident. Fisher and Matheny have been listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 2015 for their work in Personal Injury Litigation on behalf of plaintiffs.
August 18, 2016
By Nick Malawskey | firstname.lastname@example.org
on August 16, 2016 at 10:25 PM, updated August 17, 2016 at 6:58 AM
Landowners and environmentalists opposed to the Mariner East II pipeline are asking the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for more time.
In eight days — and one more public hearing in Westmoreland County — DEP will cease taking public comments on the proposed pipeline, which is designed to move Marcellus Shale gas from eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania to the Sunoco Pipeline plant in Marcus Hook.
At issue are whether or not the department will issue permits to allow Sunoco to build the pipeline near waterways — the pipeline itself is regulated by the federal Department of Transportation.
On Tuesday, at a public hearing at the Pennsylvania Farm Show complex, opponents argued there just wasn't enough time to analyze all of the possible impacts of the project.
On the other hand, supporters of the pipeline — a wide swath of industry and manufacturing representatives and the union members who would build the project — argued that the permitting process had been drawn out long enough already.
Building the pipeline, they argued, would create thousands of jobs and provide a much needed boost to Pennsylvania's manufacturing and energy economies. It could also provide a boost for the Marcellus Shale industry, which has been dampened by low natural gas prices.
Moreover, said Abe Amoros, the legislative director for the Labors' International Union, the pipeline "will be constructed safely and in an environmentally friendly way."
"Many have expressed concerns with this project," Amoros said. "But study after study has shown pipelines are the safest way to transport national gas."
Union members, meanwhile, testified that the pipeline would be built safely.
"Our involvement ensures a safe, quality installation, because our jobs are depending on it" said Ross Stevens, a union member. "Be assured, we maintain the highest standards. We will not let you down."
But opponents were undeterred — and argued that much of the testimony from the industry, namely that related to jobs, had little to do with the issues at hand.
"I want to remind DEP that comments about jobs are not to hold precedence over wetland protections," said Elise Gerhart, whose family has fought against the pipeline.
Gerhart, who said that tree removal for the project has already impacted the streams and wetlands on her family property, and said Sunoco had a bad record when it came to safety.
"I am asking DEP not to be part of the criminal act of forcing these pipelines on people who do not want them on their property," she said. "We do not want to be in the blast zone."
Zora Gussow, a farmer from Columbia County, also argued that the pipeline "could not be built in a way that does not have negative impacts on the land." She also urged DEP to extend the public comment period for another 45 days.
DEP will hold one more public comment hearing on Aug. 18 at Westmoreland County Community College.
August 18, 2016
August 16, 2016 | 10:27 PM
By Marie Cusick
State environmental regulators held another public hearing Tuesday night to get public feedback on the proposed Mariner 2 natural gas liquids pipeline that would span 17 counties and cross 350 miles of southern Pennsylvania.
About 110 people turned out to the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. A conference room was filled with representatives from labor unions, extolling the job benefits of project, and environmental opponents criticizing the proposal. Compared to other recent public gatherings about pipelines, the evening was fairly tranquil, with members of each camp politely applauding for their spokespeople.
“We’ve seen the public support and listened to the concerns,” says Jeff Shields, a spokesman for Sunoco Logistics, the company behind the proposal. “That’s what we’ll continue to do.”
DEP is currently reviewing Sunoco’s permit applications to expand its Mariner East system, which includes an existing gas liquids pipeline, known as the Mariner 1. The new pipeline, called the Mariner 2, would transport natural gas liquids (NGLs) from eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania’s Marcellus and Utica shales to the company’s Marcus Hook terminal near Philadelphia, and run largely parallel to the existing line.
DEP’s role is limited; it’s reviewing permits for places where the pipeline crosses waterways. That didn’t stop many speakers at the hearing from delving into other topics. Stephane Catarino Wissman, who heads the state division of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group representing oil and gas companies, discussed the broader economic benefits of the pipeline.
“NGLs can supply heat during the winter, are used to power homes and businesses and most importantly provide a fuel source for Pennsylvania’s manufacturing industry,” she told the DEP.
Although the most of these NGLs are currently being exported to Europe, Sunoco says it wants to develop the regional market. Elise Gerhart, who has publicly tangled with the company after it cut trees on her family’s property last spring, addressed the union workers directly.
“I’m a Pennsylvanian with a job too,” said Gerhart. “We’re not here to fight you about jobs.”
Other opponents urged DEP to hold more public hearings across the pipeline route and extend the public comment period beyond the August 24th deadline.
The department will hold its final hearing Thursday at the Westmoreland County Community College’s Founder’s Hall Amphitheatre in Youngwood from 6:30 to 9:30pm.
August 18, 2016
The company says the flash fire involved a crude-oil pipeline connection
By Click2Houston.com Staff
Updated: 9:51 AM, August 13, 2016
PORT ARTHUR, Texas - An explosion has been reported at a tank farm in Jefferson County on Friday.
According to Sunoco Logistics, the explosion happened at a construction project at its Nederland Terminal.
The company says the flash fire involved a crude-oil pipeline connection.
Seven employees of a contractor were injured, four of them critically.
The workers were welding when the fire started, said the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.
The cause of the accident is under investigation.
KPRC will provide updates when they become available.
None of the nearby residents were affected.
August 14, 2016
— Gambling with Safety —I
t certainly is a good thing those pipelines are safe.This weekend seven workers were injured in a fire at the Beaumont facility in Texas. The same facility that had an incident in January 2015, also injuring seven workers. And as before, seven hurt, again?
If those facilities weren't safe, we imagine the casualites would have been much higher. The next two articles provide details, please note the dates.
August 14, 2016
By Dan Wallach Updated 1:57 pm, Saturday, August 13, 2016
Federal accident investigators were on-site Saturday at the Sunoco Logistics terminal in Nederland to discover how a welding contractor might have touched off a flash fire late Friday on a crude oil pipeline connection under construction, a Sunoco Logistics spokesman said.
"There was welding, a crude oil line and fumes," said Jeff Shields, Sunoco spokesman, also on-site along with representatives of the work contractor, Houston-based L-Con Inc.
Seven contract workers were injured in the flash fire, four of them critically. Three were air-lifted to burn specialist hospitals in Houston and Galveston the rest went to local hospitals by ambulance, Shields said.
Part of the investigation will discover whether the contractors followed safety practices, he said.
As to an ignition source of the flash fire, Shields said, "You don't know. That's what the investigation will reveal."
Shields said he did not have an update on the conditions of the injured workers. He did not know how many contractors were in the area at the time of the fire.
He said the fire, which erupted around 9 p.m. on the eastern edge of the terminal nearer to the Neches River, did not halt operations and there is no significant impact to business. The construction site is closed, he said.
"We're receiving product," he said. "We had scheduled outages because of construction on some of the lines."
The U.S. Occupational, Safety and Health Administration is on site, he said.
The fire did not affect nearby residents, Shields said. The Nederland fire and police departments responded as well as the Jefferson County sheriff's office and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Sunoco also operates a marine terminal on the site as well as 130 above-ground storage tanks with a storage capacity of 24 million barrels of crude oil plus condensate, naphtha, base and extract oils.
Sunoco Logistics also is the southern terminus of the Keystone pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma, which delivers several hundred thousands of barrels of crude oil.
Shields said he did not know which units were affected by the fire or whether the terminal's operations are suspended.
"We are trying to preserve the site for an investigation and for any agencies that want to investigate and also because of the weather system," Shields said, referring to a rainy forecast.
August 14, 2016
By The Enterprise Updated 11:43 am, Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Sunoco Logistics is investigating the cause of an inadvertent activation of a chemical fire-suppression system in the vicinity of working contractors at the company's Nederland Terminal on Monday, a company spokesman said.
Seven contractors were taken to The Medical Center of Southeast Texas in Port Arthur as a precautionary measure after being exposed to the dry-powder fire-suppression material, which can be an irritant if inhaled, Jeff Shields, Sunoco's communications manager, wrote in an emailed statement.
Separately, one contractor fractured his leg and was hospitalized in a fall from scaffolding at the time of the incident, Shields wrote in his statement.
The event happened about 3:30 p.m., Sheilds wrote. The dry-chemical fire-suppression system uses a product known as Purple K, a non-toxic, potassium-bicarbonate-based chemical powder that is commonly used for industrial fire-suppression, Shields wrote.
Seven workers exposed to the dry powder were transported to the hospital as a precaution, in addition to the worker with the fractured leg, and their families were notified, Sheilds wrote.
August 14, 2016
WEST CHESTER >> Approximately 200 people attended a public hearing at West Chester University Wednesday night pertaining to the Sunoco pipeline currently slated to come through the region, and with them a mixture of support and concern.
At the meeting, which was hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), local environmentalists expressed concern of the potential of pipeline ruptures and leakages, along with the potential damage to the environment that could follow.
Michael Di Domenico, a Westtown board supervisor, spoke about his experiences with Sunoco and questioned the DEP over its involvement, or lack thereof, to ensure protection for the area’s residents.
Di Domenico said he spoke with two hydrogeologists and three well drillers, who reportedly validated his concerns that nearby pipeline work would likely have a negative impact on his well water. He then subsequently requested Sunoco pay to test his well water, stating that Sunoco agreed to test private water for wells within easement area.
He said Sunoco denied his request on the grounds he was a public official, and it did not want to set a precedent, and also said Sunoco’s lawyers have not returned his attorney’s calls. However, Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said both attorneys did speak with each other Tuesday, and that Di Domenico’s property is not on the pipeline right of way, and therefore will not be tested for free.
“Pennsylvania citizens are not reaping benefits from this gas exportation operation, only headaches and sincere inconvenience,” Di Domenico said. “Doesn’t the DEP have a responsibility to plan, monitor, and provide safe drinking water in nonpublic water systems? Why do I, a private citizen have to pay to keep my water supply safe? Who protects private citizens? Does the DEP?”
Others, primarily union leaders and contractors, took a more positive tone, and pushed wholeheartedly for the project to go through.
Trish McFarland, president of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, supported the plan, stating that natural gas is becoming more important, and projects like the Mariner East 2 pipeline will help “modernize critical energy infrastructure.”
Anthony Gallagher, business manager of Steamfitters Local Union 420, and Helen Levins, representative from the National Electrical Contractors Association, also said they support the project.
Other people still expressed environmental concerns that pipeline breaks or ruptures could damage local environment, and the pipeline itself would help retain dependence on nonrenewable energy sources.
Richard Whiteford, a local environmentalist who frequently gives lectures on climate change, said investments in nonrenewable resources should instead be devoted to renewable ones in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions, and he expressed doubt DEP hearings actually carry much weight.
Sunoco Logistics plans to use the pipeline project to transport natural gas to Marcus Hook, Delaware County. Representatives from Marcus Hook said their borough fully supports the pipeline project, citing the jobs that would come to the region.
In Chester County, the pipeline will run through several municipalities: West Nantmeal, Wallace, Upper Uwchlan, West Whiteland, West Goshen, East Goshen, Westtown and Thornbury.
The pipeline will also run through portions of Delaware County, including the municipalities of Thornbury, Edgmont, Middletown, Aston, Brookhaven, Chester Township and Upper Chichester.
State Sen. Andrew “Andy” E. Dinniman, D-19, of West Whiteland, and state Rep. Dan Truitt, R-156, of East Goshen, were also present at the meeting.
No Sunoco representatives spoke at the meeting.
To contact Daily Local News staff writer Adam Farence, email email@example.com, or call 610-235-2647.
August 11, 2016
P.J. D'Annunzio, The Legal Intelligencer
August 9, 2016
A federal appeals court has denied challenges brought by Pennsylvania and New Jersey conservation groups over state permits for an expansion of a natural gas pipeline that runs from southern Texas to New York.
Several conservation groups, including the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, challenged decisions by the Pennsylvania and New Jersey departments of environmental protection, which issued permits for constructing pipeline expansions in those states.
When the agencies issued the permits and subsequent certifications, the conservation groups claimed, they did not take into account the environmental impact the 10,000-mile Transcontinental Pipeline additions could have on local water systems.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that the Pennsylvania and New Jersey state agencies did not act arbitrarily when they issued Clean Water Act permits and water quality certifications to Transco, the company that owns the pipeline.
Simultaneously, however, the court also ruled against the state agencies' claims that issuing permits was a state matter that stripped federal courts of jurisdiction.
"PADEP argues that this court does not have jurisdiction over water quality certifications because our jurisdiction under the Natural Gas Act extends only to state agency action taken pursuant to federal law, whereas a water quality certification is required by federal law. This argument does not pass muster," Third Circuit Senior Judge Jane Richards Roth wrote of Pennsylvania's argument.
"Although the Clean Water Act makes clear that states have the right to promulgate water quality standards as they see fit," Roth continued, "subject to EPA oversight, the issuance of a water quality certification is not purely a matter of state law."
Ultimately, Roth said, water quality certification isn't simply required by federal law, it doesn't exist without federal law.
The court also found against a similar argument pushed by New Jersey, which claimed the court did not have jurisdiction over its issuing of freshwater wetlands permits that deal with the protection of threatened and endangered species, and flood hazard area permits.
"Given that the Natural Gas Act provides this court with jurisdiction to review state authorizations issued pursuant to the Clean Water Act, this court has jurisdiction over the freshwater wetlands individual permits and the water quality certifications," Roth said.
Aaron J. Stemplewicz, who represented the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said he was disappointed that the court held the group did not allege sufficient harm in its claims.
"We were encouraged by the fact that the court did agree with our arguments that the court had jurisdiction over the matter," Stemplewicz said, but added that the group would be seeking a panel rehearing of the case.
Edward Lloyd, a professor at the Columbia Law School who argued the case for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, did not respond to a request for comment.
Joseph S. Cigan III, who represented the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and Mark Collier of the New Jersey Attorney General's Office did not respond to requests for comment.
August 9, 2016
Mariner East 2 partisans clash at DEP public meeting in West ChesterAugust 11, 2016 | 11:28 AM By Jon Hurdle
Friends and foes of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 plan to build two natural gas liquids pipelines across southern Pennsylvania lined up to support or attack the plan in equal measures at a public meeting called by the Department of Environmental Protection in West Chester on Wednesday evening.
Arguments on both sides strayed well beyond the technical agenda of the meeting – to gather public comment on Sunoco’s applications for two DEP permits on earth disturbance and water quality – and ranged from job creation to public safety to climate change, reflecting the impassioned views on the project held by partisans in both camps.
Virginia Cain, a DEP community relations coordinator who moderated the almost three-hour session at West Chester University, said the 40 speakers were split exactly evenly between supporters and opponents of the project, with 19 on each side and two she recorded as neutral. Each was given a three-minute slot to address the meeting, which drew about 300 people.
As well as residents and local officials, the meeting drew trade unionists who argued that construction of the pipeline will create hundreds of jobs for their members, and will pump NGLs across the state safely, thanks to stronger materials and improved techniques than were used in previous generations of pipelines.
George Morrison, a pipeline welder who belongs to Steamfitters Local 420 in Philadelphia, said his work is subjected to rigorous inspections by officials from the owner or operator of a pipeline. He said public fears about pipeline leaks or explosions are based on a misunderstanding of the construction process.
Morrison said he had not planned to speak at the meeting but put his name on the speakers’ list at the last minute because he felt compelled to make his case for pipeline safety after hearing critics’ concerns.
“I wanted to see people to see this from a workers’ point of view,” he said in an interview outside the auditorium. “The inspection is so tight, it’s so critical.”
Morrison, 54, who has welded pipelines for 35 years, said that welders are subjected first to drug tests, and then have to perform several test welds before an inspector, who will also look at equipment, and then cut into a sample weld to look for any faults.
Completed welds are visually inspected and x-rayed, and then hydrostatically tested, he said.
There is little tolerance for faulty work, Morrison said. “If three of my welds are rejected, I’m out of a job.”
A street in the borough of Marcus Hook, Delaware County with the Sunoco refinery in the background. Mariner East supporters say the new pipeline will help keep jobs in the area.
Successful welds are stronger than the pipe, while modern pipe is much stronger than that of previous generations, he said. He argued that critics should instead focus on the economic benefits of the Mariner East 2 project.
“I’m in favor of it because it would bring work to the area, bring jobs, bring food to my table,” he said.
But Nora Nash, a Catholic nun who belongs to the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, said the $2.5 billion pipeline would threaten public health and undermine national efforts to comply with the COP21 Paris agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Nash called the 350-mile pipeline project “a commercialization of our regional environment that has little to do with energy independence and more to do with corporate power and money.”
She accused the DEP of doing a poor job of regulating the natural gas industry in the shale gas boom of the last decade, and said the department is more inclined to protect the industry than the public.
“What is very disheartening is that we know the regulations are often written and overseen by persons and interest groups who protect the industry and not the citizens of the state,” she said.
The DEP also came under fire from Chester County state Senator Andrew Dinniman, a Democrat, who said the public-hearing process was a sham because the department had already made its decision on Sunoco’s permit applications.
“You have already made up your mind, and you know it, the citizens know it,” Dinniman told Cain and another DEP official on the stage. He called for an extension of the public-comment period beyond the current Aug. 24 deadline.
Still, Dinniman said he was “not opposed” to the project because of its economic benefits.
Cain said officials would not immediately respond to public comments at the meeting – the third in a series of four on the permit applications — but would do so in writing at the end of the comment period.
Jerry Thomas of Lebanon County has been fighting Sunoco in court over eminent domain. The Mariner East 2 will run through his front yard.
Pamela Bishop, a resident of West Cornwall Township in Lebanon County, accused the DEP of failing to reject Sunoco’s applications for a Chapter 105 water-quality permit despite several of the applications being incomplete.
“Rather than issuing permit denials, DEP allowed Sunoco to revise and resubmit applications multiple times,” Bishop told the meeting. She argued that the DEP should extend the public-comment period by at least 30 days in light of the extensions given to Sunoco.
She rejected claims that pipeline critics are opposed to job creation but said public health must be protected.
“We who oppose this pipeline are not against jobs or progress,” she said. “We are for what the Pennsylvania laws and constitution require: protection of health and safety for all Pennsylvanians and protection of our environment.”
But the pipeline’s projected economic benefits were hailed by Bruce Dorbian, Director of Planning and Development for the Borough of Marcus Hook, where a shuttered refinery is being repurposed as a terminal for storing, processing and shipping the NGLs that would be pumped in by the pipeline.
He said the new terminal will regenerate local jobs that were lost in the refinery closure, and will help the economy of southeastern Pennsylvania build a petrochemical industry as part of the proposed “energy hub”.
“Pipelines are a safe way of transporting natural gas and natural gas liquids,” Dorbian said.
Jeff Shields, a spokesman for Sunoco Logistics, said the company is “committed to developing the Mariner East system in an environmentally responsible manner” and that it recognizes the DEP hearings as an “integral part” of the permit process.
Mariner East 2 faces legal challenges from some landowners who are fighting the company’s use of eminent domain to build the pipeline on their land, and from the environmental group Clean Air Council which argues that the project does not have the required state permits because it is not legitimately an intrastate pipeline.
August 11, 2016
Sunoco pipeline hearing draws a crowd in West Chester
A large crowd turned out at a public hearing Wednesday night at West Chester University to support and to oppose the contentious Mariner East 2 pipeline project, which Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. wants to build to transport liquid fuels like propane from the Marcellus Shale to a terminal in Marcus Hook.
More than 200 people attended a hearing at the Sykes Student Union organized by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. More than 40 people signed up to speak during the public comment section, with testimony evenly divided for and against the project.
DEP is holding five hearings in August to hear testimony on permits Sunoco Logistics needs to encroach on waterways. The 350-mile pipeline, which originates in eastern Ohio, crosses the entire length of Pennsylvania.
The $2.5 billion project is supported by labor unions and business advocates, but it has generated opposition from some adjacent landowners and from environmental activists, who say it would contribute to climate change by linking shale-gas producers to markets.
August 10, 2016
Media Downplays Sunoco’s Huge Court Victory re Mariner East 2
Last Friday MDN brought you the really big news that Sunoco Logistics Partners had won a major appeals court case that recognizes them as a public utility in Pennsylvania with the right to use eminent domain to build the Mariner East 2 NGL pipeline (see Sunoco LP Wins Major Court Decision for Mariner East 2 Pipeline). Although Big Green groups like the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council are attempting to spin the decision as no big deal–it is a big deal, and they know it. So how does the Associated Press, in bed with Big Green, report the decision? This is their headline: “Sunoco clears 1 legal hurdle after pipeline project ruling.” Laughable! It’s more than one hurdle. Sunoco essentially put another 7 points on the board with 5 seconds left to play…
Here’s the entire AP article, as reported in dozens of media outlets:
What the article totally ignores is that the case serves as precedence for a number of other cases. A local reporter in Lebanon, PA recognized that in his story:
National media refuses to report the story honestly, but local reporters often don’t get that luxury. The truth leaks out. We found this quite a contrast, between the Clean Air Council’s spoon-fed AP reporter and a local reporter in Lebanon County.
(1) Associated Press (Jul 15, 2016) – Sunoco clears 1 legal hurdle after pipeline project ruling
(2) Lebanon (PA) Daily News (Jul 15, 2016) – Pipeline ruling deals blow to Lebanon County landowners
July 18, 2016 |
By Julie Grant (The Allegheny Front) • 9 hours ago
If you’ve seen the movie The Graduate, you no doubt remember the classic scene where a businessman friend of Benjamin’s parents—anxious to talk about the kid’s future— approaches Dustin Hoffman’s character with “just one word” of advice.
That one word, of course, was “plastics.”
There was a “bright future” in plastics according to Mr. McGuire. And while The Graduate came out nearly 50 years ago, some parents in Pennsylvania today might also see a future for their kids in plastics.
Thus far, the region’s natural gas deposits have mostly fueled a boom in the drilling industry. But those same resources could also soon be feeding a spinoff industry in chemicals—like the ones used to make plastics—that are made from natural gas. Case in point: The 600 permanent jobs Shell says it will create when it opens its new “ethane cracker” in western Pennsylvania. It will use super-high temperatures to turn ethane—a liquid natural gas product—into the building blocks of plastics. And more of these facilities are in the works for this region.
That’s because ethane and other so-called “natural gas liquids,” like propane and butane, are abundant in the region. And because there’s already a demand for these fuels in places like Canada and Europe, companies are now scrambling to expand the network of pipelines that carry them for export.
Mick Luber has had a front row seat for this most recent phase the industry’s expansion. His small organic farm in the quiet hills of eastern Ohio has recently become a popular spot. The land where he grows things like tomatoes, greens and fava beans now sits next to a new compressor station and multiple well sites. They’re so close, they often wake him up at night.
“For the first year that they were fracking, it was hard for me to go outside,” Luber says. “I felt so bad hearing the roar of all this stuff. It’s nice to have the cicadas that drown them out.”
And Luber expects what he’s seen so far may be just the beginning. Now, pipeline companies, like Kinder Morgan, have come knocking at his door, asking to build a line through the middle of his farm.
“They wanted to come right down through this main field and go up over the top of that hill,” Luber says. “There’s a spring right up there. That’s the most fertile part of this farm.”
Shell is also planning a pipeline in the area, and Marathon is already building one on the farm’s southern border. Along one side of a valley, Marathon’s pipes are lined up, waiting to be connected. All around, the ground has been stripped bare.
“This is what you end up with. This was all woods,” Luber says.
After he saw that, Luber told Kinder Morgan that he didn’t want a pipeline—not even a survey. But Kinder Morgan sued, arguing the pipeline was necessary to serve a public good and therefore had the right to build the pipeline on Luber’s land under eminent domain.
“All of these are operated, not by government entities, but by companies doing public business, in the sense that everybody that’s listening to your radio station uses gas to drive a car [or] heat their homes,” says Allen Fore, a spokesperson for Kinder Morgan. “So there absolutely is a public good for that.”
But Luber argues that’s not the purpose of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline. It won’t be carrying natural gas for home heating; it will be transporting ethane to Canada so that companies there can make plastics.
Still, spokesman Allen Fore argues plastics meet the “public good” threshold.
“You tell me anybody in this country that doesn’t use plastics in some way, and that plastics aren’t critical to their everyday lives—from cups to medical devices to automobiles,” Fore says.
Surprisingly, the federal government doesn’t have much authority when it comes to settling these kinds of disputes between companies and landowners. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has authority over siting routes for typical natural gas pipelines. But it’s a totally different story for liquids gas products like ethane.
“FERC has no authority to regulate natural gas liquids in the United States,” says Rich Raiders, an attorney representing about a dozen Pennsylvania landowners in an eminent domain case brought by Sunoco Logistics. “FERC’s authority is strictly limited to natural gas.”
Raiders says when FERC has authority—as it does for siting typical natural gas pipelines—landowners are part of the routing discussions.
“That’s an all-public, eyes-open discussion,” Raiders says. “Whereas for a natural gas liquids line, that’s between the individual landowner and the pipeline company, and no government entity is involved at all.”
And that means eminent domain issues are getting sorted out by courts. In Kentucky, the state supreme court recently upheld a lower court ruling, which found a pipeline company is not a public utility and therefore cannot use eminent domain for natural gas liquids pipelines. But in Pennsylvania, pipeline companies that want eminent domain power can get certified as a “public utility” by the state Public Utility Commission. However, to do that, they have to show their project will benefit the people of the Commonwealth.
One of the highest-profile cases where these issues are colliding is Sunoco’s Mariner East project. It includes two pipelines—a new one, and an older one that’s been repurposed. Both will carry natural gas liquids. The new line begins in Ohio, near Mick Luber’s farm in Harrison County, and runs through Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near Philadelphia. From there, Raiders says liquid gas is being shipped to Europe.
Raiders argues the fact that this gas is being produced for export clearly demonstrates that the project is not serving a public need of the Commonwealth—and therefore is not covered under eminent domain laws.
Sunoco would not agree to an interview for this story. But in an email, the company says the Mariner East project will also provide propane for heating fuel to markets in Pennsylvania. In addition, Sunoco says the pipeline is already considered a utility under a 1930s certification granted by the Public Utility Commission for its original pipeline. In July, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court agreed with the company’s stance, granting eminent domain power in all 17 counties in the pipeline’s path.
Sunoco says it has come to an agreement with the majority of landowners. But some residents are still bringing eminent domain fights to the courts.
“The bottom line is when they’re approaching landowners in Ohio, they have this big stick called eminent domain,” says Nicholas Anderson, an attorney representing a landowner in Harrison County, Ohio. “And they say look, ‘We’ll give you ‘X’ number of dollars per linear foot. But if you don’t accept that, we’re just going to take your property.’ And that is where we have a problem.”
Anderson’s Ohio clients lost their court case against Sunoco, but they’re appealing. And in the case of the Kinder Morgan ethane pipeline—the one farmer Mick Luber was fighting—Anderson says the company recently filed 130 eminent domain cases in at least eight Ohio counties. Still, Kinder Morgan spokesperson Allen Fore maintains the company only pursues eminent domain action as a last resort.
For Luber, things didn’t get that far. Kinder Morgan recently announced it would reroute the pipeline around Luber’s farm. But the company wants to make it clear that they won’t reroute for every landowner who has a problem.
Even though his farm was spared, Luber doesn’t see it as a victory.
“As long as these guys are still doing this stuff, what is the victory?” he says. “You can’t stop the vigilance. People have to keep standing in their way.”
July 24, 2016
Court ruling says Sunoco can condemn land for liquid natural gas pipeline
Sunoco Logistics Partners is indeed a public utility and can start condemning properties in Pennsylvania for its Mariner East 2 liquid natural gas pipeline, a state appeals court has ruled.
All 50 property owners affected by the pipeline in Lancaster county in Clay and West Cocalico townships have negotiated easements and are not facing eminent domain proceedings, Sunoco indicated.
A search of county records did not show ongoing disputes related to the project.
The pipeline, which has been granted a certificate of public necessity by the state Public Utility Commission with condemnation powers, has been resisted in other parts of the state.
But landowners along the 6.5-mile pipeline route in northern Lancaster County appear not to have fought the pipeline, as has been the case with the proposed Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline in western parts of the county.
“We are very close to completing land acquisition in Lancaster and across the pipeline route,” said Jeff Shields, spokesman for Sunoco Logistics Partners.
The Mariner East 2 is a $2.5 billion, 350-mile pipeline that will run from Ohio through Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. It will carry liquid natural gas in the form of ethane, butane and propane from Marcellus Shale fracking fields to the refinery, where it will be separated and transported to markets in the United States and overseas.
Opponents, including three landowners in Cumberland County who sued Sunoco, claimed the pipeline is actually an interstate pipeline and governed not by the Public Utility Commission, but by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Also, opponents challenged Sunoco Logistics’ claim to be a public utility. The project is a venture to make a profit for a private company and does not serve a public need, the lawsuit against Sunoco claimed.
A Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas judge ruled in Sunoco’s favor in September, saying the pipeline project correctly fell under the purview of the Public Utility Commission.
Last week, Commonwealth Court upheld the ruling by a 5-2 vote.
The court also said both the Public Utility Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have jurisdiction over the pipeline.
It wasn't immediately clear if the court's decision would be appealed.
Sunoco issued a statement on the favorable ruling. “Although this case confirmed Sunoco Pipeline’s public utility status, we have always worked with landowners to reach mutually acceptable agreements, and pursued legal proceedings only in those instances where an agreement could not be reached,” the Delaware County-based company said.
Still in court is a separate suit, filed last year by the Clean Air Council, that argues Sunoco has no right to use eminent domain because the project does not serve a public need.
Alex Bomstein, a Clean Air Council attorney, said the Commonwealth Court ruling was narrow and did not address constitutional challenges named in the lawsuit.
“This is not the end of the story,” he said.
July 22, 2016
July 14, 2016 | 7:40 PM
By Susan Phillips
Dozens of eminent domain cases across the state have held up construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline. Commonwealth Court ruled Thursday that Sunoco was a public utility, granted eminent domain authority by the PUC.
A state appeals court dealt a blow to property owners fighting eminent domain takings by Sunoco Logistics on Thursday. Commonwealth Court ruled that in the case of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, Sunoco is a public utility subject to regulation by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which it says granted the company a certificate of public convenience that extends to all 17 counties along the hotly contested pipeline’s path. The majority 5-2 opinion cited the PUC’s decision:
[T]his authority [under existing CPCs] is not limited to a specific pipe or set of pipes, but rather, includes both the upgrading of current facilities and the expansion of existing capacity as needed for the provision of the authorized service within a certificated territory.
The Commonwealth Court decision, written by Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer, determined that the Mariner East 2 pipeline is both interstate and intrastate, and therefore subject to jurisdiction by both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the PUC.
Sunoco Logistics released a statement praising the decision.
“Although this case confirmed Sunoco Pipeline’s public utility status, we have always worked with landowners to reach mutually acceptable agreements, and pursued legal proceedings only in those instances where an agreement could not be reached. We believe negotiation is better than litigation, and that landowners receive more favorable terms and compensation as a result of easements that are negotiated rather than litigated.”
Judge Jubelire also wrote the court did not have any basis to review the PUC’s decision regarding whether or not the pipeline served a public need.
Public good has been a sticking point for landowners along the 350-mile Mariner East 2 pipeline route. Sunoco’s plan is to transport natural gas liquids from eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania’s Marcellus and Utica Shales across Pennsylvania to the company’s terminal near Philadelphia, where it will ship to a facility in Scotland that manufactures plastics. The new pipeline mostly parallels the Mariner East 1 pipeline, which had once served to ship gasoline westward from Philadelphia refineries. Sunoco reversed the flow on that line and has been shipping gas east for export from the Port of Philadelphia.
When the company began approaching landowners for easements, it faced some stiff opposition, and ended up taking some to court over eminent domain. A 2014 ruling in York County Court of Common Pleas questioned the public good of the line. Subsequently, Sunoco added two off-loading terminals to the planned pipeline, one each in Berks and Lebanon counties. The company says the added terminals were in response to the polar vortex of 2014, when cold weather led to a lack of affordable heating fuels in the Northeast. But landowners say it’s a ruse to argue those two terminals serve a public need.
A spokesman for Sunoco, Jeff Shields, says the amount of propane gas required by customers in Berks and Lebanon counties has not yet been finalized.
Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough dissented to the majority opinion, questioning the motives of the company with regard to supplying propane to residents of Berks and Lebanon counties.
“The assertion that ME2 will have several new “on and off” ramp locations so as to ostensibly provide intrastate service, is, at the preliminary hearing stage, insufficient to counter the recent representation Sunoco made to the Court of Common Pleas of York County that ME2 was exclusively interstate. In order to uphold the invocation of the power of eminent domain, the justification must be genuine and real, not hypothesized, or invented post hoc in response to litigation.”
Judge Kevin Brobson also dissented, urging the court to hear issues related to the public good of the project before any final decision on eminent domain is made.
Rich Raiders, an eminent domain attorney representing dozens of residents in similar cases against Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 project read the Commonwealth’s decision with a ray of hope.
“I’m hopeful that they will accept my request to have oral argument on this question [of public good],” he said. “I can guarantee you that one or more of these cases will be going to go up to the supreme court.”
July 18, 2016
By Alex Rose, Delaware County Daily Times
Posted: 07/15/16, 4:51 PM EDT | Updated: 18 hrs ago
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court delivered a 5-2 opinion Thursday affirming a lower court’s ruling that a Sunoco subsidiary is a public utility and that planned pipelines to transport Marcellus Shale crude represent a public utility service.
The majority opinion, penned by Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer, upholds a ruling from Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Edward Guido last year that found the Mariner East pipeline project is both an interstate pipeline subject to federal authority and an intrastate pipeline subject to regulation by the state Public Utility Commission.
The distinction is important to landowners across Pennsylvania who have filed suits to halt the Mariner East project under eminent domain rules. The PUC has already determined the project is a public utility, which grants Sunoco Pipeline the ability to acquire private property or easements under eminent domain. Sunoco said in a statement that Thursday’s opinion was decisive in that regard.
“Although this case confirmed Sunoco Pipeline’s public utility status, we have always worked with landowners to reach mutually acceptable agreements, and pursued legal proceedings only in those instances where an agreement could not be reached,” the statement said. “We believe negotiation is better than litigation, and that landowners receive more favorable terms and compensation as a result of easements that are negotiated rather than litigated.”
The Mariner East pipelines would transport natural gas liquids from Ohio, West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex for processing and transport overseas.
Sunoco previously indicated the project was solely interstate, but changed the plan after a 2014 polar vortex in which local customer demand for propane shot up dramatically.
Commonwealth Court Judge P. Kevin Brobson and said in a dissenting opinion that he is still not convinced the pipeline’s “true purpose” is intrastate delivery rather than interstate pass-through.
Judge Patricia A. McCullough likewise pointed to the fundamental right of property ownership that is “zealously protected” under the Pennsylvania Constitution in her dissent.
“In order to uphold the invocation of the power of eminent domain, the justification must be genuine and real, not hypothesized, or invented post-hoc in response to litigation,” she opined.
Alex Bomstein, a Clean Air Council attorney who filed a similar lawsuit to halt the project in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, said Friday that the majority opinion did not address the constitutional or environmental issues he has put forth.
“The scope of the case was relatively narrow,” said Bomstein, who is also a landowner that would be impacted by the project. “The decision that came down yesterday … does not address several claims that we made in our case.”
Bomstein added that this is only the first appellate court ruling on more than a dozen pending suits. He expects all the various issues presented by those cases will ultimately be decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
“We don’t think this case shuts the door on our lawsuit,” he said. “The courts make rulings based on the facts before them. We have not even gotten to the point where we have gotten to discovery in (our) case.”
Sunoco has indicated capacity for the pipelines could reach 675,000 barrels of natural gas products per day. Philadelphia-based Econsult Solutions, Inc. conducted a study for Sunoco last year that found the projects could add up to $4.2 billion to the state’s economy, supporting more than 30,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and 300 to 400 permanent jobs once completed.
July 18, 2016
updated July 14, 2016 at 5:27 PM
A sharply-divided Commonwealth Court panel on Thursday dealt three Cumberland County couples a blow in their attempts to block Sunoco Logistics from seizing part of their properties for the Mariner East II natural gas transmission pipeline.
The court majority did that by upholding county President Judge Edward E. Guido's decision issued last year to dismiss preliminary objections R. Scott and Pamela Martin and Douglas and Lyndsey Fitzgerald, both of North Middleton Township, and Harvey and Anna Nickey of Lower Mifflin Township filed opposing Sunoco's bid to take their land through eminent domain.
"I think it's a sad day for Pennsylvania landowners and the Pennsylvania Constitution," Michael F. Flaherty, the attorney for the property owners, said of the ruling.
Sunoco Logistics praised the state court ruling, saying it affirms lower court decisions that the Mariner East II project will provide a public service to Pennsylvanians.
"We have always worked with landowners to reach mutually acceptable agreements, and pursued legal proceedings only in those instances where an agreement could not be reached," the firm said in a statement. "We believe negotiation is better than litigation, and that landowners receive more favorable terms and compensation as a result of easements that are negotiated rather than litigated."
In the Commonwealth Court majority opinion, Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer supported Guido's finding that Mariner East II is both and interstate and intrastate pipeline, with the section running through Pennsylvania falling under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Utility Commission.
She backed Guido's finding that Sunoco is therefore a "public utility corporation" recognized by the PUC and so has the power to condemn land for the pipeline on grounds that it would provide public utility service in Pennsylvania.
The PUC already has determined a public need for the pipeline, so Guido had no grounds to review challenges the landowners made to that finding, Jubelirer wrote.
Two of the seven state judges who heard the case - Judges P. Kevin Brobson and Patricia A. McCullough - filed dissenting opinions, however, questioning whether Sunoco legitimately has state-bestowed condemnation powers for Mariner East II.
McCullough voiced concern that Sunoco may be trying to invoke eminent domain "for its exclusively private benefit."
"Private ownership of property is a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution...a right that is zealously protected under the Pennsylvania Constitution as well," McCullough wrote. "The majority decision, I fear, will gravely undermine that right."
Brobson called Guido's finding in the case "incomplete." He said the matter should be sent back to county court to determine when providing PUC-authorized service "is the true goal of taking the property owners' land."
The Mariner East II project is to run from Washington County across Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook in Delaware County. The pipeline is to extend into Ohio and West Virginia as well. It is to have off-load points in Pennsylvania, but its products also are to be shipped out of state.
Sunoco is proposing to permanently take 1.5 acres of the Martin's land on Longs Gap Road; 0.14 acres of the Fitzgerald's land along Pine Creek Drive and 0.7 acres of the Nickey's property off the Blain McCrea Road.
The property owners could appeal the Commonwealth Court ruling to the state Supreme Court. Faherty said he is "strongly recommending" they do so.
In March, Faherty argued before Commonwealth Court that because Mariner East II passes through several states and would carry hazardous liquid byproducts of natural gas production used to make plastics it falls under federal regulations that bar land condemnations.
July 14, 2016
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has begun its technical review of the $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 Pipeline, Kallanish Energy has learned.
Officially, the 350-mile pipeline, that will carry natural gas liquids from Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook near Philadelphia, is known as the Pennsylvania Pipeline Project.
The liquids, primarily propane and butane, will then be shipped to domestic and overseas markets from Marcus Hook.
The project by Sunoco Logistics is designed to handle 275,000 barrels per day (BPD) from the Marcellus and Utica Shale plays.
The company’s Mariner East 1 Pipeline currently is transporting ethane and propane to Marcus Hook.
The two pipelines will largely follow the same route, which will traverse 17 counties across southern Pennsylvania.
The pipelines are primarily regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, although state permits are required.
Pennsylvania will extend the public comment period on the project from 30 to 60 days and will hold five public hearings in August. The deadline for comments is Aug. 24.
The Mariner East 2 has come under attack by local residents and activist groups.
July 13, 2016
HARRISBURG – The state Department of Environmental Protection said Monday it will hear testimony from the public in conjunction with the proposed construction of a natural gas pipeline that would cross 17 counties in the southern portion of Pennsylvania, including Washington County.
DEP said in a news release it began a technical review of permit applications submitted by Sunoco Logistics Inc. for the Pennsylvania Pipeline Project, also commonly referred to as Mariner East II.
The PPP is a proposed expansion of the existing Sunoco Mariner East pipeline system. Sunoco recently upgraded its existing Mariner East I pipeline to transport natural gas liquids from Ohio and the Pittsburgh area to its Marcus Hook facility in Delaware County. Most of the PPP is proposed to follow the same pipeline corridor as Mariner East I and will traverse 17 counties in the southern tier of the state.
Because these pipelines will convey liquefied natural gas, they are regulated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which falls under the U.S. Department of Transportation. The project requires multiple permits from DEP, including OKs for earth disturbances of five acres or more, and permits for proposed activities located along or across a watercourse, floodway or body of water, including wetlands.
DEP said because of the scope and complexity of the project, it will provide for enhanced public participation opportunities by extending the comment period from 30 to 60 days and holding public hearings in the affected regions later this summer.
Comments submitted electronically and at the upcoming hearings should focus on the relevant permits, not the overall pipeline.
“As an open and transparent agency, we take public comment and input very seriously,” said Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We want to provide the public with several opportunities to review permit applications and provide thoughtful, critical and constructive feedback to aide in our technical review.”
During the hearings, each speaker will have the opportunity to present up to three minutes of testimony. To ensure all speakers have a fair and equal opportunity to present their testimony, relinquishing of time to other speakers will be prohibited, and groups are asked to designate one speaker. All presenters should bring at least one copy of their comments and exhibits for submission to DEP.
The public hearing for the Southwest Region, which covers Allegheny, Cambria, Indiana, Washington and Westmoreland counties, will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Aug. 18 in Founder’s Hall Amphitheatre, Westmoreland County Community College, 145 Pavilion Lane, Youngwood. Those wishing to offer testimony for the Southwest Region hearing can register in advance by contacting John Poister, community relations coordinator, at 412-442-4203 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The department also will accept written testimony by email or by sending comments to Rita Coleman, program manager, Waterways and Wetlands, 400 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 or RA-EPWW-SWRO@pa.gov.
Written comments will be accepted until Aug. 24.
July 11, 2016
Pa. DEP sets five public hearings for contentious Mariner East pipeline
by Andrew Maykuth, Staff Writer @Maykuth
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will conduct five public hearings in August on the Mariner East II pipeline, which Sunoco Logistics Partners proposes to build to deliver Marcellus Shale propane and natural gas liquids to Marcus Hook.
DEP will conduct a hearing from 6:30 to 9:30 P.M. on August 10 at the Sykes Student Union at West Chester University, 110 W. Rosedale Ave. in West Chester. It will also conduct a hearing on Aug. 8 in Altoona, on Aug. 9 in Lebanon, Aug. 16 in Harrisburg and Aug. 18 in Westmoreland County.
The 300-mile pipeline, which will cross 17 counties, requires permits for earth disturbances of five acres or more and permits for proposed activities located in, along, across or projecting into a watercourse, floodway or body of water, including wetlands.
Permit information for the project in Chester and Delaware Counties is posted online: http://bit.ly/29nLrPY.
DEP will also accept written comments on the project until Aug. 24.
July 9, 2016
County to send letter on Sunoco pipeline to DEP
For the second time in recent months, the Lebanon County Board of Commissioners has agreed to send a letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on behalf of an anti-pipeline group.
Pam Bishop of the Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County told the commissioners that after a year-long process, DEP has finally accepted Sunoco Logistics application for water-crossing permits in Pennsylvania.
Sunoco has proposed building one and possibly two 300-mile pipelines, parallel to an existing pipeline, to carry natural gas liquids from the Marcellus Shale region of the state to its distribution point near Philadelphia. The Mariner II Pipeline crosses nearly 20 miles of Lebanon County and would cross many of streams and wetlands, necessitating the permits.
The DEP decision set off a 60-day comment period that expires Aug. 24, which Bishop said is insufficient for so complex a process. She requested that the commissioners send a letter to DEP asking that the comment period be extended by at least 30 days and that the agency hold a public hearing in Lebanon County where it could gather more input.
"They (Sunoco) are still amending their application," she said. "We have received notice that they just amended it July 2. So it is still a work in progress and it is a very difficult thing for the public to follow everything. And that's why we request a 90-day public comment period."
The commissioners unanimously agreed to Bishop's request.
The board's decision was consistent with action it took in May when Bishop, along with members of Lebanon Pipeline Awareness, asked the commissioners to send a letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to extend a comment period on a Draft Environmental Impact Study submitted by Williams Partners for its Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Project, which also would carry natural gas products through the county.
July 8, 2016
Hearings scheduled for Mainer East II Pipeline
Comment period deadline is August 24
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has begun the technical review of all Chapter 102 and 105 permit applications submitted by Sunoco Logistics, Inc. for the Pennsylvania Pipeline Project commonly referred to as Mariner East II.
The process will include accepting public comment and public hearings in the region impacted by the project, including one scheduled August 9 in North Cornwall Township.
Mariner East II is a proposed expansion of the existing Sunoco Mariner East pipeline system. Sunoco recently upgraded its existing Mariner East I pipeline to transport natural gas liquids from Ohio and the Pittsburgh area to its Marcus Hook Facility in Delaware County. Most of the Mariner East II pipeline is proposed to follow the same pipeline corridor as Mariner East I and will traverse 17 counties in the southern tier of the state.
Because these pipelines will convey liquefied natural gas, they are regulated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which falls under the U.S. Department of Transportation. This project requires multiple permits from DEP, including permits for earth disturbances of five acres or more (Chapter 102), and permits for proposed activities located in, along, across or projecting into a watercourse, floodway or body of water, including wetlands (Chapter 105).
Due to the scope and complexity of the project, DEP will provide for enhanced public participation opportunities by extending the comment period from 30 to 60 days and holding public hearings in the affected regions later this summer. Comments submitted electronically and at the upcoming hearings should focus on the relevant permits, not the overall pipeline. The comment period deadline is August 24.
"As an open and transparent agency, we take public comment and input very seriously", Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a news release. "We want to provide the public with several opportunities to review permit applications and provide thoughtful, critical, and constructive feedback to aide in our technical review."
During the hearings, each speaker will have the opportunity to present up to three minutes of verbal testimony. To ensure that all speakers have a fair and equal opportunity to present their testimony, relinquishing of time to other speakers will be prohibited, and groups are asked to designate one speaker. All presenters should bring at least one copy of their comments and exhibits for submission to DEP.
Questions and official public comments may be submitted to the following regional resource account: South-central Region: RA-EPWW-SCRO@pa.gov
Permit information for the South central region can be found on the DEP website, dep.pa.gov, by searching Mariner East II.
The South-central Region includes Berks, Blair, Cumberland, Dauphin, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties. Dates and locations for three public hearings in this region are as follows:
Those who wish to present testimony during these hearings are asked to register in advance by contacting John Repetz, Community Relations Coordinator at 717-705-4904 or by email at email@example.com. Written testimony may be sent via email or by sending comments to Scott Williamson, Program Manager, Waterways and Wetlands, 909 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110 or RA-EPWW-SCRO@pa.gov. Written comments will be accepted until August 24.
July 8, 2016
- Sic, "Mainer" (apparently: Mariner), as it originally appeared in the source article.
Explosion heat up concerns over gas pipelines
By Reid R. Frazier
July 05, 2016 | 3:14 PM
A tornado, a giant storm, an airplane crashing. That’s how neighbors describe the sound of the explosion that took place at 8:13 a.m. on April 29, in a field in Salem Township, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.
“The noise was so loud — it was sickening,” Dave Alund said. “All the oxygen rushing — it consumed all the oxygen around here — you had a devil of a time breathing.”
Dave Alund has lived down the road from where the blast occurred for the last seven years. Despite the intensity of the blast, which sent one man to the hospital and destroyed his home, Alund says it doesn’t make him worry about the potential for other mishaps with pipelines in the area.
“They’re constantly putting in pipelines. And they’re relatively safe. There’s a lot worse things to worry about than gas explosions,” he said.
Investigators released a preliminary report that said corrosion along a weld in the 30-inch pipeline may have caused the blast.
“We hope that if there are lessons to be learned, the entire industry can use them to make the nation’s pipeline system even safer,” Cathy Landry said, a spokeswoman for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, a pipeline industry trade group, via email.
“Nearly 100 percent (99.999997 percent to be exact) of the natural gas transported by pipeline was delivered without incident last year. Our industry is committed to the goal of zero incidents, and we are working every day in pursuit of that goal.”
The pipeline is part of the Texas Eastern Transmission line, a 9,000 mile system of pipes that transports natural gas north from the Gulf Coast to the Eastern Seaboard.
Brigham McCown used to head up the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PMHSA) federal agency in charge of pipeline safety.
“Pipelines really are like underground energy highways. Some of them are interstates, some of them are rural country roads,” he said.
And the Texas Eastern Pipeline is like an Interstate Highway.
McCown says 2.6 million miles of pipelines around the country carry oil and gas every day, almost always without incident.
“It’s about managing risk,” McCown said. “To the extent that pipelines aren’t used, then other forms are used and they’re frankly far more dangerous.”
But accidents do happen. Over the past decade, there’ve been more than 300 serious incidents involving pipelines resulting in 132 deaths, according to data compiled by PMHSA. And these can often take place close to where people live. In fact there’s no minimal setback for pipelines from homes and buildings established by the federal government, according to Rebecca Craven of the watchdog Pipeline Safety Trust.
“There are situations where new pipelines are going through, and even with the ability to move away from a house or a group of houses, they are choosing to run a straight line and go close to those houses simply because it’s cheaper.”
The explosion in Salem Township, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, took place 200 yards behind a house. A man in the house, identified as 26-year-old James Baker, fled the home, just before it was engulfed in flames. He suffered third degree burns on three-quarters of his body and was picked up by a neighbor who’d driven up in his truck.
The explosion was heard two miles away by Dean Law. He initially thought it was a nearby compressor station letting gas out of its pipes.
“Then it kept goin’, I said that doesn’t sound right to me.”
For the last two and a half years, Law had been fighting a pipeline company, Sunoco Logistics, about putting a pipeline on his property. He finally agreed to accept the company’s offer this year after Sunoco threatened to use eminent domain. But he’s not happy about it.
Among his main concerns is that the pipeline cuts through a mobile home park he built on his property — and will pass a few feet from the houses of his tenants. One of those is his daughter, Dawn Law.
The right of way follows an older pipeline that was built in the 1930s on the land. The new pipeline will go right by Dawn’s front door. The recent explosion has her worried for her own safety, in the unlikely event of a similar explosion.
“Living this close to it? What chance do you have? You don’t have a chance,” she said.
Dean Law doubts that’ll ever happen on his property. But he says the more pipelines there are, the more chances there can be for another explosion. And with the current drilling boom, he sees more pipelines in the future.
July 7, 2016
By Kathleen E. Carey, firstname.lastname@example.org, @dtbusiness on Twitter
The Commonwealth Court this week denied Sunoco’s petition for an appeal of the Clean Air Council’s lawsuit against them, challenging the company’s right to take properties by eminent domain to build a natural gas pipeline from western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook in a move some say clears the way for the case to go to trial.
“This gives hope to people who have been despairing somewhat giving that Sunoco has been moving forward,” Alex Bomstein, senior litigation attorney for the Clean Air Council, said. “It’s not inevitable that they are going to build this. It’s not inevitable that they twist the law that denies people their constitutional rights without any recourse.”
Representatives for Sunoco declined comment.
In a complaint filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court last August, the Clean Air Council argued that Sunoco is not a public utility and doesn’t have the right of eminent domain for this project.
The Public Utility Commission ruled in 2002 and in 2014 that Sunoco does have status as a public utility.
Part of the Clean Air Council’s complaint states that Sunoco’s project would not serve any public need.
Sunoco Logistics plans to invest $3 billion in the two Mariner East projects, connecting natural gas liquids in western Pennsylvania and in Ohio with Marcus Hook for distribution throughout the globe.
Company officials previously stated that the projects would support more than 15,000 jobs a year while contributing $62 million in taxes during the two-year construction time. When completed, the projects are expected to sustain between 300 and 400 permanent jobs while contributing a minimum of $100 million to Pennsylvania’s economy.
The complaint in Philadelphia Common Pleas asks the court to decide on nine counts including constitutional rights, eminent domain, legal procedure and injunctive relief.
“Sunoco is trying to make it like all of these things have previously been decided in Sunoco’s favor,” Bomstein said. “Some of the issues that we’ve raised haven’t been litigated before. These are new issues.”
Bomstein said now that the Commonwealth Court has declined Sunoco’s petition for appeal, the case returns to Philadelphia. No date has been set yet.
“The next step is going back in front of the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia and continuing to prosecute our claims,” Bomstein said. “We’re excited to get a judge to rule on the merits of our case.”
Joseph Otis Minott, executive director and chief counsel for the Clean Air Council, had similar sentiments.
“We are pleased to be moving ahead again with our challenge to Sunoco’s illegal use of eminent domain for private gain,” he said. “This decision did not come a moment too soon for Pennsylvanians threatened by this project.”
Michael Bomstein, an attorney representing landowners in Delaware County, said some have become daunted.
“In recent months, Sunoco’s land agents have succeeded in persuading many property owners that resistance against Sunoco would be futile,” he said. “Many people report becoming discouraged and signing away their legal rights. Landowners do not have the time, the money or the willingness to endure the aggravation of fighting Sunoco in court. It is critical that the Philadelphia case go forward. (The) decision by Commonwealth Court will make that possible.”
Alex Bomstein commented on the legal team Sunoco has assembled.
“Sunoco has hired more lawyers than I realized are in Pennsylvania,” he said. “It’s like a new law firm every week.”
There is another case pending in Commonwealth Court regarding the Marcellus Shale pipeline involving Sunoco and landowners in Cumberland County.
June 23, 2016
Our story begins with 29-year-old Elise Gerhart, sitting up in a white pine tree, on a platform she built about 40 feet high on her parents land in Huntingdon County. Chain saws roared around her.
“This is my home, you know, I grew up here,” Gerhart shouts down from her perch. My parents owned this place five years before I was born.”
Down below police officers were guarding work crews and arresting her mother on her own land.
This is eminent domain in action. The idea that the government can take land for the public good. That’s why we, the public, get to enjoy national parks, and drive on highways. One of the earliest enforcement of eminent domain by the federal government was used to expand the Gettysburg National Military Park.
There are times when companies also get the authority to take away private land. And this comes as a surprise to many people. It certainly came as a shock to Elise Gerhart.
“It boggles my mind because it goes against everything you’re taught growing up in America and the American Dream is to own property.” Gerhart stood with her mother by a stream surrounded by woods on their land days before she decided to take to the tree. “And as it turns out these companies can just come and take it away from you.”
When pipeline companies won’t take no for an answer
Sunoco wants three acres of the Gerhart’s 27-acre property in Huntingdon County to expand a pipeline that will carry natural gas flowing out of the Marcellus Shale. The Mariner East 2 will transport natural gas liquids from eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania’s Marcellus and Utica Shales 350 miles across Pennsylvania to the company’s terminal near Philadelphia.
At first, Sunoco said its plan was to solely to export the gas to Scotland so it can be turned into plastics, which has Elise Gerhart and some of her neighbors asking about the public good in chopping down trees to make plastics overseas.
“The world doesn’t need more plastics, it needs more forests,” she said.
When Sunoco officials were confronted with fierce opposition across the state, their story changed. Now the company says the pipe will benefit rural Pennsylvanians. Their new plan is to unload some of the fuel along the way to help heat homes in Berks and Lebanon counties. A company spokesman also says some of the liquids, which include propane, could be shipped domestically from their terminal in Delaware County.
The Gerharts say Sunoco initially offered $14,000 for a 3 acre easement on their property, and as the company was rebuffed, the offer grew to $100,000. Still, the Gerharts turned it down, saying their land wasn’t for sale.
“Sunoco is a private for-profit corporation,” said Elise Gerhart. “They’re not PennDOT widening the road that we then drive on. There’s just no comparison here between this and that.”
Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields says the company uses the power of eminent domain as a last resort, only when negotiations with individual landowners break down.
And some landowners are happy with the money Sunoco paid them for their land and trees. But dozens of families, including the Gerharts, are now in county level courts of common pleas across the state, either unhappy with the money Sunoco offered, or battling the use of eminent domain for something they don’t see serving the public good.
“What do private property rights mean then?” she said. “Because once a judge, a county level judge, makes that ruling in favor of the company over the landowners, they’ve sold out their entire county. That means that Sunoco could go to our neighbors, or to our neighbors neighbors, or to the judge’s house and take their land through eminent domain. Or another pipeline company could do that.”
And it’s not just Sunoco, pipeline companies are taking people to court all across the state.
“It’s totally insane what’s happening,” Gerhart said. “Nothing is sacred anymore, no conservation area, no business, no school. They’ll put these pipelines anywhere they want.”
Ellen Gerhart, Elise’s mother, says the family bought the land in 1982 with the intention of preserving it. The Gerharts joined a state program that gave them tax breaks for not developing the land.
“You can get up in the morning and look out your window and you’ve got deer in the front yard, you’ve got turkeys with their chicks, it’s just a nice peaceful quiet area.”
The golden certificate from 1930
Sunoco’s power to use eminent domain in this case goes all the way back to a 1930 decision made by the Pennsylvania Public Service Commission, a precursor to the state Public Utility Commission, which granted the Susquehanna Pipe Line Company a “Certificate of Public Convenience,” meaning it would be considered a public utility. That certificate granted the company permission to build a pipeline to transport gasoline from Philadelphia area refineries to western counties.
It’s unclear if the Susquehanna Pipe Line Company ever used eminent domain to construct the original line. But the 8-inch pipeline still exists, and Sunoco Logistics now owns the line, which it retrofitted to ship natural gas liquids from the Marcellus Shale to Southeastern Pennsylvania. The company reversed the flow on that 8-inch line, renamed it the Mariner East pipeline, and shipments of the natural gas liquid ethane, began leaving the Port of Philadelphia for Scotland in March. Sunoco’s expanded $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 includes two 24-inch diameter lines that will carry ethane, butane and propane through 2,700 properties in Ohio and Pennsylvania. To build the Mariner East 2, the company needs a lot more land.
Sunoco argues that the original certificate, combined with recent certificates of public convenience it received from the Public Utility Commission to expand the Mariner East 1 pipeline in Washington County, give it the power of eminent domain. The Public Utility Commission, in a brief to the courts, defended its decision to grant the certificate of public convenience, but takes no position on whether or not Sunoco’s use of eminent domain in this case is legitimate.
For the most part, the company’s legal arguments have worked. Courts in western and central Pennsylvania have been consistently ruling in Sunoco’s favor and against landowners. But courts in both York and Philadelphia counties have questioned that 86-year-old decision, raising issues as to whether the company is engaged in interstate commerce, and whether it should enjoy status as a public utility.
Some eminent domain attorneys say the issue may not be resolved until it reaches the state Supreme Court. If so, it will be the job of court to decide just how broad the power of eminent domain is in the state, and how the public good is defined.
David versus Goliath
Eminent domain attorney Rich Raiders represents about a dozen landowners who have cases with Sunoco, including the Gerharts. Raiders boils it down to this:
“The issue for the landowners is that this is David versus Goliath and unfortunately as the landowner, you are playing the role of David,” said Raiders. “Oh and by the way, Goliath is holding the slingshot.”
In fact, Sunoco’s eminent domain authority has allowed it to chop down trees even as the court battles continue. In the Gerhart case, a Huntingdon County judge threatened protestors with six months in jail if they impeded the work of the tree-clearing crews. And while Gerhart was able to save that one white pine tree she sat in, Sunoco crews did cut down three acres of surrounding trees.
“We tried everything else,” said Elise Gerhart from her perch in the tree. “We tried to make petitions and write letters and make phone calls and do research and go to meetings and fight it in the court system and everything has failed us.”
Now Gerhart is also worried about the safety of the pipeline that would run beneath her parents land.
Gerhart’s fears have grown since last month, when a natural gas interstate transmission line exploded in rural western Pennsylvania, leaving one man with burns on 75 percent of his body, and scorching 40 acres of farm land.
“It seems crazy right? That we have to do this,” she said. “That we’ve been forced to do this because the government isn’t protecting us.”
The company plans to begin construction on the pipeline this summer.
May 12, 2016
Thirty Pieces of SilverW
e found an interesting nugget: who's getting money from Sunoco. It's a long list going back decades, and a more than a few disappointments. We're aware some of these names are outdated. We'll clean this table up later and add a filtering function. We decided to release this information now in light of the upcoming elections.
Consider presenting this to the person that received your vote, and demand an explanation. Don't be surprised if you get the greater good excuse, or some other higher platitude. They sold us out. Period. And now we know the dollar amount, too. Many are quite affordable.
Remember - you choose them at election time, and pay their wages. So, they work for you.
April 23, 2016
May 12th-we removed non-Pennsylvania officials from the list.
The U.S. natural gas industry views private property with less reverence than it did when the shale gas revolution began 10 years ago.
Companies are chomping at the bit to build new pipelines that will move natural gas and natural gas liquids to profitable markets. However, building a single long-haul pipeline is a timely and costly endeavor that often requires working with hundreds of individual private property owners to create a right of way.
At the dawn of the shale gas revolution, private property was held as sacred by natural gas producers. A major reason why the shale gas revolution was stronger in the United States than in other countries, according to experts, was because the private ownership of subsurface rights in the United States provided an incentive to property owners to lease their land to natural gas producers. In Europe and other regions around the world, the national government often owns the mineral rights, which makes it harder for energy companies to negotiate contracts.
A funny thing happened, though, when the industry started making plans to build new pipelines that would deliver the growing volumes of produced gas to markets where they could get top dollar. The industry often found private property rights stood in the way of their large-diameter pipelines through greenfield areas.
Battles are now occurring across the country as energy pipeline companies demand access to private property. In Pennsylvania, the conflict has become extremely tense between property owners on one side and the industry and the government on the other side. The latest confrontation occurred in Huntingdon County, Pa., in the central part of the state, where three people were arrested on March 29 on property owned by the Gerhart family.
The arrestees, whose preliminary court hearings are scheduled for May 11, were monitoring crews hired by Sunoco Logistics Partners LP who had arrived to cut trees on property owned by the Gerhart family. The company wants to clear a right of way for a pipeline that would transport natural gas liquids across the state for export at the Marcus Hook terminal near Philadelphia.
Since the first natural gas wells were drilled in the Marcellus Shale in the mid-2000s, the industry and its supporters have embraced private property rights and defended the rights of private property owners to lease their land — surface and subsurface rights — to natural gas producers. Any attempt to slow down the shale gas production rush was deemed a “taking” of economic resources from the landowners or an illegal confiscation of the property. But the sanctity of private property rights lost its appeal among state officials when it hindered the growth of the industry.
Government agencies, along with federal and state courts, are coming to the industry’s rescue in Pennsylvania and other states as they grant pipeline companies permission to seize private property through the use of eminent domain. Federal and state officials are zealously defending the rights of pipeline companies to confiscate private property to build pipelines, even when there is no public benefit to the property owners, like the Gerharts, whose land is being seized.
Regulators, at the request of pipeline companies, are classifying the proposed pipelines as in the “public interest,” and the courts are threatening private property owners with fines, prison time and even violence at the hands of federal marshals and state and local police if they refuse to allow pipeline companies access to their property.
On the Gerhart property, tree-cutting crews, protected by Huntingdon County sheriff’s deputies, were clearing a right of way for Sunoco Logistics’ proposed Mariner East II natural gas liquids pipeline. When they bought the land in 1982, the Gerhart family agreed to make the property part of Pennsylvania’s Forest Stewardship program, which gives tax breaks in exchange for not developing the land.
Similar to a confrontation earlier this year over the cutting of a swath of maple trees on private property in Susquehanna County, Pa., a judge issued an emergency injunction on March 28 to allow Sunoco Logistics to proceed with cutting trees on three acres of the Gerhart family’s land. Unlike the Huntingdon County confrontation, though, the tree-clearing in Susquehanna County for Constitution Pipeline Co. LLC’s proposed natural gas pipeline did not result in arrests of the property owners or their supporters.
The heated disputes between pipeline companies and landowners are likely to continue as the administration of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, projects 30,000 miles of new pipe will be needed in the state over the next 10 years to handle the massive volumes of natural gas and liquids getting produced from the region’s shale gas fields.
Sunoco Logistics was pleased with its ability to clear the trees in Huntingdon County just before an April 1 tree-cutting moratorium took effect. The Indiana bat, recognized as an endangered species in Pennsylvania, is known to roost in this region of the state in the spring, so tree-cutting must occur by April 1.
“We were able to clear the vast majority of the right of way on that particular property, and our right of way remains on schedule. We completed the work we set out to do there,” Sunoco Logistics spokesman Jeff Shields said. “We haven’t had any other issues on the other 171 tracts we had cleared in Pennsylvania before that.”
Return of the Clear-Cutters
On April 7, the Gerharts were surprised to see that crews with chain saws had returned to their property to cut the remaining trees in the right of way that had not been cut by the March 31 deadline. In a statement, Sunoco said U.S. Forest Service regulations “also provide the process for tree-felling after March 31, which includes additional due diligence, such as the deployment of bat biologists to verify that bats are not present in any tree to be cut.”
Ellen Gerhart, one of the property owners, was arrested on April 7 for protesting the new round of tree-cutting on her property. Along with Elizabeth Glunt and Alex Lotorto, Gerhart also was one of the three people arrested on her property on March 29. Gerhart has decided to refuse bail and will stay in a county corrections facility until her preliminary hearing on April 20. She also has decided not to eat food until her hearing in protest of the authorities’ decision to side with Sunoco Logistics rather than protect the family’s private property from the company.
For the March 29 arrests, a Huntingdon County judge set bail at unusually high levels for Glunt and Lotorto, who face only misdemeanor charges. Glunt’s bail was set at $100,000, and she was released on bail on March 29. For Lotorto, who serves as shale gas program coordinator for the nonprofit Energy Justice Network, his bail was set at $200,000. Three days after his arrest, Lotorto was released from the county jail on April 1 without having to post bail. Lotorto said he refused to eat during his time in jail because he was not allowed to see a lawyer.
While in jail, Lotorto said he was in a cell next to an accused child molester whose bail was set at only $75,000. Lotorto said he faces up to 18 months in jail plus fines, even though he is unaware of any laws he broke. He contends he never entered the right of way where the crews were cutting trees on the Gerhart property.
Shields said Sunoco Logistics is adding new storage capacity at Marcus Hook facility to handle the increased volume of liquids once the Mariner East II project begins operations. The company hopes to begin construction on the Mariner East II pipeline this summer and complete the project in 2017, he said.
In Susquehanna County, the Constitution Pipeline, as an interstate pipeline, was certificated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, while Mariner East II, as an intrastate pipeline, was granted public utility status by Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
“We had a federal judge that gave them eminent domain power,” said Megan Holleran, who lives in Susquehanna County and who tried to prevent crews from cutting down maple trees on her family’s property to clear a right of way for the Constitution Pipeline. “They had a county judge that gave them eminent domain power. Either way, no matter what we did to try to legally stop it, there was nothing we could do.”
Holleran and her family lost their battle against the developers of Constitution Pipeline, a 30-inch-diameter pipeline that would transport natural gas produced in Pennsylvania to customers in New York, New England and possibly eastern Canada.
The tree-cutting on the Holleran property took place in February, with heavily armed U.S. marshals guarding the crews cutting down the trees. Family members used the maple trees to make syrup for their company, called North Harford Maple. The maple syrup company, started by the family about six years ago, has tapped more than 300 trees that produce syrup that is sold at local stores and through an online business.
Property Rights Unite
Not every state is granting companies authorization to use eminent domain to build new pipelines. In Georgia, Kinder Morgan Inc. suspended work on its Palmetto petroleum products pipeline project following what it said was an “unfavorable action” by the Georgia Legislature regarding eminent domain authority and permitting restrictions for petroleum pipelines. The $1 billion pipeline would carry gasoline and diesel fuel from Belton, S.C., through Georgia to Jacksonville, Fla.
In March, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation that would keep Kinder Morgan and other companies from seeking environmental permits or other licenses for petroleum pipelines until July 2017. “My constituents were up in arms,” Georgia state Rep. Bill Hitchens, a Republican, said in an interview with Inside Climate News . “It’s a conduit to pump petroleum from South Carolina into Florida. It doesn’t do anything for the state of Georgia.”
Hitchens, who sponsored the Georgia House of Representatives’ version of the bill, said he was concerned with threats to landowner rights. “Personal property rights are something that most people believe are as sacrosanct as all of the amendments to the Constitution,” he told Inside Climate News.
Property rights have become a unifying issue among people who are opposed to energy infrastructure that does not provide benefits to their communities, according to Holleran. “Anyone who owns private property wants to know they have control over it and that it’s not going to be taken just for someone else to make money. A lot of governments are starting to realize that if they allow these pipelines to cross their states, even if they don’t have fracking in their state, the pipeline doesn’t bring much benefit to the communities it goes through. All it is is a pipeline going across your land. You don’t get paid royalties off of it. The jobs are all outsourced.”
Holleran also believes there is no public need for many of the proposed pipelines because they would follow the same routes of existing pipelines that are owned by different companies. If it were only about transporting the natural gas to a region in need, the industry would be co-locating all new pipelines in existing corridors or it would be expanding existing lines rather than building entirely new pipelines, she said.
“But the companies won’t work together and that’s because this isn’t about transporting gas. This is about making money,” Holleran said. “We’ve already got so many pipelines in Pennsylvania.” .
April 13, 2016
Officials from Sunoco Logistics have begun contacting residents who will be affected by construction of the company's Mariner East II pipeline project, expected to cross about 270 properties in Westmoreland County.
The 20-inch pipeline will run parallel to Sunoco's 12-inch Mariner East line, with both carrying propane, ethane and butane to the company's Marcus Hook plant in eastern Pennsylvania.
Sunoco Communications Manager Jeff Shields said Mariner East II will cross about 2,700 properties between eastern Ohio and its Marcus Hook plant.
“Our construction probably won't begin until summer,” Shields said. “We're still awaiting our permits, and we're dependent on those.”
During the winter, Sunoco focused on cutting trees along the pipeline path, work that had to be completed by the end of March so bats coming out of hibernation to nest were not disturbed.
Shields estimates construction will take between six and nine months.
“We'll have multiple sections starting at once, and then we'll connect those up,” he said.
Mariner East II will have the capacity to pump up to 450,000 barrels of natural gas liquids per day. In fact sheets for the project, Sunoco noted the potential for an additional 16-inch pipe that could carry 250,000 barrels per day along the route if demand is great enough.
“If there's not enough shipper interest, the project won't happen,” Shields said about the third pipeline.
When Mariner II construction starts, the pipes will be laid 4 feet underground. In areas that include wetlands, historic designations or road crossings — for example, where the pipe will cross Old William Penn Highway near Borland Farm Road in Murrysville — Shields said the construction process involves digging deep underground and pulling the pipe through without disturbing the surface.
Shields said the process should not require road closures.
“Basically, right now, we're trying to keep municipalities updated on what we're doing,” he said. “As construction draws closer, we'll be in more direct contact with residents.”
April 10, 2016
The surveyors have returned. They were operating near the intersection of Boot & Greenhill Road. Click on any image in this article to enlarge. Photo re-use encouraged with credit.
March 24, 2016
Map of Pipeline Runs Through West Goshen
We found a few maps you might find fascinating.
Notice that the pipeline appears to be both subterranean, and runs along the border between the property lines on either side of Boot Road. This should have some interesting legal consequences.
March 15, 2016
West Whiteland Township, PA
They bullied. They intimidated. They called early in the morning, late at night and on weekends.
Those were some of the descriptions given by Chester County property owners on Thursday afternoon of how they have been treated by land agents working ahead of the proposed Sunoco Pipeline project.
"They harass you," said Elaine McLaughlin, an East Goshen Township property owner. "They come all hours of the weekend."
McLaughlin and her husband of 50 years, John, were among residents who spoke at a press event to call attention to proposed legislation that would put land agents under the regulation of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission.
Typically, land agents are the first people to approach property owners about securing easements or other issues associated with a planned pipeline project. Sunoco's Mariner East 2 project would run across the width of the state, including a stretch through Lebanon, Lancaster, Berks and Chester counties.
Another Chester resident, Bassam Khalil of Upper Uwchlan Township, is the defendant in one of the 60-plus eminent domain lawsuits filed by Sunoco in those counties.
"If you read the offers they give you, it is intimidation," said Khalil, who regularly reviews contracts as part of his work for a major software developer.
"They don't give you an option. They say, 'Sign,'" he said. "They don't tell you you don't have to sign."
Sunoco Pipeline has contracted Percheron LLC for land agent services in eastern Pennsylvania. In a written statement, Sunoco said land agents have negotiated mutually acceptable easements on properties across the state.
"We believe that landowners should be treated fairly and respectfully during easement negotiations," the statement said. "We do not require landowners to deal with any agent they are not comfortable with. We take complaints against land agents very seriously, and have terminated land agents as a result of complaints."
Sunoco said it opened an office in Chester specifically for the purpose of giving property owners an alternative location for discussing easements with the company, rather than at their homes.
The bill to regulate the agents was crafted by state Sen. Andrew E. Dinniman, a Chester Democrat. He arranged the press conference held Thursday afternoon in Ship Road Park in West Whiteland Township, near the Mariner East route.
Dinniman introduced several property owners who told their stories about land agents, including Khalil and McLaughlin.
"I wanted to make sure people didn't think I was making something up," Dinniman said.
The bill would require land agents to undergo the same licensing procedures as real estate agents. Checks for criminal background and for professional problems in other states would be part of the process.
"Right now, you have nowhere to go if somebody does something inappropriate," Dinniman said.
Penalties for violation of real estate regulations, he said, include loss of license, fines and imprisonment.
Sunoco has described Mariner East 2 as one of the largest investments in the history of Pennsylvania. It would transport petroleum-related products across the state to the Marcus Hook terminal on the Pennsylvania-Delaware border, largely following the same route as existing pipelines.
Lynda Farrell, head of the Chester-based nonprofit Pipeline Safety Coalition, said having to deal with land agents and the eminent domain process can be difficult emotionally and financially. She founded the nonprofit as a result of dealing with the Williams Transco pipeline project.
"Now, we see Sunoco coming into Chester County and we see the same thing happening, with land agents bullying people," she said.
Fred Fonseca, whose property is close to the park and would be crossed by the proposed pipeline, said land agents first told him they only wanted a "sliver" of it. Later, he said, he learned they wanted "the whole back half of my property."
Fonseca, a historical reenactor, showed up for the press event in the garb of an 18th century Pennsylvania militiaman. He and Dinniman said some of the property affected by the pipeline project was the scene of the "Battle of the Clouds" in 1777, when militia fought Hessian mercenaries in the Revolutionary War.
"There is nothing more sacred than property rights," Dinniman said. "That is why we fought the Revolution."
March 12, 2016
A Cumberland County judge was wrong when he ruled that Sunoco Logistics can invoke eminent domain to seize land for its proposed Mariner East II pipeline, a lawyer for the owners of three targeted properties told a state appeals court panel Wednesday.
County Judge Edward E. Guido found in his October decision that Sunoco had authority under state law for condemnations.
His logic was faulty, however, because the construction of the Sunoco pipeline falls under federal authority, which does not allow the use of eminent domain for such projects, the landowners' attorney Michael Faherty told the seven Commonwealth Court judges hearing his clients' appeal of Guido's ruling.
Sunoco's lawyers, Alan Boynton and Christopher Lewis, countered that the pipeline project - which is to track from Ohio through West Virginia and Pennsylvania into Delaware - has approvals not only from the feds, but also from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. That PUC sanction allows the firm to condemn land for the pipeline in this state, they argued.
The dispute was born when North Middleton Township landowners Pamela and R. Scott Martin, Douglas and Lyndsey Fitzgerald and Harvey and Anna Nickey challenged Sunoco's bid to take their land for the pipeline, which Faherty said would carry mostly "hazardous" liquid byproducts of natural gas production, materials used for the production of plastics.
In approving the condemnations, Guido concluded that Sunoco has eminent domain power to secure easements for the pipeline because the project would provide for the delivery of propane, ethane and other products within Pennsylvania. Since the PUC regulates such products, Sunoco is a public utility with property seizure power, Guido found.
During the Commonwealth Court hearing, Faherty argued that the pipeline is an interstate project that falls under the jurisdiction of federal law, which bars the use of eminent domain for pipelines that transmit the material to be shipped through Mariner East II. Sunoco can still reroute the pipeline around the property of owners who don't want to sell, he said.
"Certainly they will build it," Faherty said. "But they do not have the power to rob the citizens of Pennsylvania of their constitutional property rights."
"There is no public need for what they are doing," he added. "It can be built without eminent domain."
Boynton and Lewis countered that the pipeline project falls under both federal and state authority and so has a PUC grant of eminent domain power.
That drew several questions from state Judges P. Kevin Bronson and Anne E. Covey as to why the federal no-condemnation rule wouldn't trump over any approval from the PUC.
"If we are regulated by the state, we have the (eminent domain) power," Boynton insisted.
President Judge Mary Hannah Levitt asked whether it is Sunoco's position that once the PUC gives its OK, even if federal oversight also is involved, the utility has condemnation power?
"Absolutely, your honor," Lewis replied.
"So, these objectors could file an appeal with the PUC and challenge the location of your pipeline?" Bronson asked.
"Yes," Lewis said.
The state judges will weigh Wednesday's arguments in rendering a decision that, given the volatility of the issue, would stand a good chance of being appealed to the state Supreme Court.
The pipeline project has prompted numerous legal fights. Another eminent domain challenge ongoing in Cumberland County Court pits three Upper Frankford Township property owners against Sunoco.
March 9, 2016
Hollidaysburg, Blair County, Pa.
Sunoco Logistics is getting ready to start cutting down trees for it's Mariner Pipeline project.
It will stretch from the Ohio border to Philadelphia and will transport methane, propane, ethane and butane gases. This pipeline is expected to go through Cambria, Blair and Huntingdon Counties. Sunoco Logistics is still working on getting the necessary permits and land easements.
Noise, safety, the environment, eyesore, and loss of property -- all concerns people have about the Mariner Pipeline project.
For one local family, they're not only worried about how this pipeline project could impact the environment, they're also concerned about how it's going to affect their business.
The Baronner's Farm Market has been in Hollidaysburg for 66 years. The family farms their crops -- mainly vegetables -- in their backyard. And with the pipeline project cutting through their property, they say their livelihood will be destroyed because their soil will be damaged by the heavy drilling equipment.
Kelly Baronner said, "We may be able to grow some field corn but we can't support ourselves and support a workforce on growing four acres of field corn."
Baronner says Sunoco Logistics is trying to get eminent domain over their property. She says they want to build a block valve station and a staging area -- right where they plant crops. Sunoco Logistics is offering her family money, but she say that's not what she's fighting for.
She said, "When your whole livelihood is going to be destroyed for the price of a good used car, don't you think you should fight for that?"
As part of their safety measures, Sunoco Logistics puts these valves every eight miles along the pipeline. Jeff Shields, Sunoco Logistics Communications Manager, said, "The main thing that it does is it segments off a line so you can shut it down incase of an emergency so we place them periodically, so that's the main priority but we also use the valves to check periodically along the line."
Baronner says she has suggested alternate routes and locations for the pipeline and valve station, but Sunoco Logistics doesn't seem willing to listen. "I know we're little, but we've been here a long time and we've employed a lot of people. We want to stay here and we want to remain viable and we're fighting for our livelihood," said Baronner.
She's just asking to have an open conversation so both sides can find a solution that works. Baronner and other residents are gathering at the Allegheny Street Coffee Company on Friday at 7 p.m. to discuss their plans.
March 9, 2016
Local residents whose property rights have been threatened by pipeline companies will speak in support of state Sen. Andy Dinniman’s legislation to regulate land agents at a press conference on Thursday, March 10, at 3 p.m.
The press conference will take place at Ship Road Park, located at 1425 Ship Road in West Whiteland. The park is nearby several properties that are impacted by Sunoco Logistics proposed Mariner East pipeline project. Numerous homeowners in the region say they have been threatened with eminent domain by Sunoco land agents in advance of the extensive pipeline project, a press release from Dinniman’s office said.
In response to complaints from residents, businesses and homeowners about the aggressive tactics employed by such land agents, Dinniman introduced Senate Bill 991.
“Currently, land agents in Pennsylvania operate with no oversight whatsoever,” Dinniman said in the release. “I’ve heard from constituents who feel that they have been intimidated, harassed and bullied by land agents. It seems like some of these agents, according to residents, will do or say practically anything to get landowners to sign over their property rights. That is not right, and it cannot be allowed to continue.”
Dinniman cited residents’ concerns regarding land agents having access to their personal information and home addresses.
In addition, he said that several homeowners claim they were misled by land agents who threatened the imminent taking of their land even though the necessary eminent domain procedures had yet to be initiated in court. According to homeowners, land agents also make a practice of delivering such threats in the evening hours and on the days before holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Dinniman’s legislation calls for amending Pennsylvania’s Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act to define the role of “land acquisition broker” and require registration with the Pennsylvania Real Restate Commission. In addition, the bill calls for allowing public access to a listing of registered brokers, requiring criminal history background checks of brokers, and providing the commission with the authority to revoke or suspend them for a number of reasons such as fraud or misrepresentation.
“Chester County is not the Wild West and we will not allow residents to be pushed around and steamrolled by the land agents of pipeline companies,” Dinniman said. “These agents perform title or contract functions and negotiate the acquisition of land and property rights. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be held to the same standards and scrutiny of Realtors.”
Other states, such as Texas and North Carolina, already have similar laws in place. Senate Bill 991 is currently in the Senate Consumer Affairs and Professional Licensure Committee. For more information, contact Dinniman’s office at 610-692-2112.
March 9, 2016
My family and I were included in the article dealings with the Sunoco Logistics Mariner East 2 pipeline ("Digging in," Reading Eagle, Feb. 28).
We have been battling with an eminent domain lawsuit that was slapped on us by Sunoco Logistics when we wanted to continue to negotiate a fair deal regarding an easement for the pipeline through our front yard.
Sunoco is abusing its supposed eminent domain power using PUC status and loopholes in Pennsylvania laws to take advantage of the common property owner.
Sunoco Logistics took us to court, as we actually wanted to and thought we could negotiate a fair deal that some around us received with much less impact on their properties.
Not so! Sunoco has a game plan to target situations like ours. We had no choice but to then hire a good eminent domain attorney, which is costing us a lot of money.
Sunoco Logistics is the one wasting the time and money in courts that it could be using for fair compensation deals.
This is a one-time compensation for something that will be with us for the rest of our lives on our privately owned property. We have very little protection from what they do after we sign the easement contract.
The construction will be damaging sections of our driveway, coming dangerously close to our home.
We acquired professional forester, landscaper and real estate estimates totaling damages and loss in property value up to 40 percent. Then there is supposed to be an amount compensated for the actual easement purchase agreement. We are just asking for a fair deal. Sunoco keeps running up the legal fees and court time on this.
March 5, 2016
One of the MLPs that have suffered significant declines is Sunoco Logistics Partners. Its value has plummeted by about 58% in the last year. The company has lost about half of its assets since 2014. These investments typically are not suitable for investors, but banks such as Wells Fargo and Citigroup have made an estimated $1.1 billion in fees for selling these products to investors. Some of the brokers who sold MLPs hyped them as high-yielding investments without significant risk. In reality, the investments were very high-risk. Please call our securities law firm in Chicago to speak to an attorney about your options of suing your brokerage firm for unsuitable investment recommendations and sales.
March 2, 2016
The Sunoco Logistics ad in the Feb. 25 edition of the Tribune-Review amused me because the company continued to sing the praises and benefits of the Mariner East pipeline. Sunoco claims the pipeline will provide affordable energy. But what happens when it reduces or eliminates the energy glut by shipping gas overseas? Supply and demand versus local processing? What makes more money? The prime purpose for Mariner East is to ship gas to markets much more profitable than here. Sunoco claims it's providing 30,000 jobs during construction but the people with the jobs are construction and pipeline workers from out of state — not your unemployed neighbor. The Public Utility Commission wants Sunoco to have eminent domain power to take my property at bargain-basement prices. This is progress? This is America?
March 2, 2016
The U.S. energy export boom is being fueled by propane. exports of the natural gas liquid jumped to monthly and annual records in December, U.S. Energy Information Administration data show.
The fuel, used mostly for heating homes and making plastics, was shipped out at 751,000 barrels a day in December. That was 14 percent of total hydrocarbon export, which also broke a record at 5.28 million as the shale revolution drove up output of natural gas and oil. Crude oil, whose export restrictions were dropped in December, accounted for 392,000, or 7.5 percent.
For all of 2015, propane exports averaged 616,000 barrels a day, up 46 percent from the record set in 2014 and more than five times the 2010 level.
The exports aren’t likely to slow. Midstream operator Enterprise Products Partners LP expanded its Houston Ship Channel export terminal to move more than 500,000 barrels a day in mid-December, Ajey Chandra, director at Muse Stancil & Co. in Houston, said Monday by phone. Propane export capability is also growing from the Northeast hub operated by Sunoco Logistics Partners LP in Marcus Hook, Pa.
Chandra said U.S. propane exports will be strong in 2016 and beyond because Enterprise tends to book purchase agreements on a long-term, take-or-pay basis.
"Our terminal is over 90 percent subscribed through 2019, and we have contracts extending well into the 2020s," Jim Teague, chief executive officer of Enterprise, said during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call Jan. 28. Teague said last week that Enterprise has nominations to move 6 million barrels of crude in March but hasn’t signed any long-term contracts to do so.
U.S. liquefied petroleum gas exports, which are mostly butane and propane, move all over the globe. Mexico was the top consumer in December, bringing in 21 percent of total shipments. China and Japan combined to take 25 percent.
Asian countries that previously depended on the Persian Gulf are also buying U.S. propane, Teague said.
"We’ve signed two large contracts with Asian companies, one going to Japan and one South Korean company," Teague said. "These guys are looking to diversify their supply."
March 1, 2016
CARLISLE – Three Cumberland County property owners will have to wait until at least next month to find out if their arguments against a pipeline, proposed to run beneath their land, will stand up in court.
Monday was the second day of testimony in Cumberland County Court in the case of Upper Frankford Township property owners Rolfe Blume, John Perry and Alan Walters, who are arguing Sunoco Pipeline does not have the authority to take a portion of their land to build the underground pipeline that will ship liquid natural gas across the state.
After the hearing, Cumberland County Judge M.L. Ebert asked both parties to submit briefs with the court before he makes his ruling as to whether or not Sunoco Pipeline is authorized to exercise the power of eminent domain to take a portion of their land for the Mariner East II pipeline project.
The parties have until March 31 to submit their arguments with the court.
While the property owners say the company does not have that power, Sunoco Pipeline officials pointed out three other judges have already ruled in the company's favor in similar cases.
Through the two days of testimony held on Feb. 8 and on Monday, Mike Faherty, the attorney representing the property owners, argued that under state law, eminent domain cannot be used for private enterprise, even if there is an element of public use, which he said is the situation here.
The pipeline will move liquid natural gas from Ohio through Pennsylvania to the Delaware River for shipment overseas, making it subject to federal regulations and not the state regulations that allow for eminent domain, he said.
The jobs that Marcus Hook lost when the refiner shutdown will not be coming back in a wave. But once again there is optimism.
But judges in Huntingdon and Washington counties, as well in another Cumberland County case with different property owners, have sided with Sunoco Pipeline and ruled it is indeed a public utility with the power exercise eminent domain.
And nothing has changed in the pipeline plans since Cumberland County Judge Edward Guido ruled in Sunoco's favor last year, Sunoco Pipeline vice president of business development Aaron Alexander testified, backing the company's argument that Ebert should rule the same way.
Alexander testified Sunoco Pipeline has been recognized as a public utility and the state's Public Utility Commission has recognized a public need for the pipeline to ship its supply of liquid natural gas.
The public necessity became apparent after the polar vortex of 2013 and 2014 brought frigid temperatures and a statewide shortage of propane, he said.
The current Mariner East pipeline does not have the necessary capacity, making the new pipeline a public need that benefits the people of Pennsylvania, Alexander said.
And pipelines are safer and cheaper than shipping by highway or railroad, he added. It would take 500 trucks daily to ship the proposed pipeline's capacity of 275,000 barrels per day at a cost of 20 to 30 cents per barrel, compared to 7 cents per barrel via pipeline.
But Fahrety argued the contracts currently in place for the Mariner East II are for shipment overseas and not in Pennsylvania, making this an interstate pipeline rather than an intrastate pipeline – thus not subject to the use of eminent domain.
Alexander countered the pipeline has the capability of loading and off loading the product in Pennsylvania to meet the demand here.
"It's like the highway system with on ramps and off ramps in the state and out of the state," he said.
Additional testimony came from Sunoco Pipeline land-project manager Bart Mitchell, who said that bonds will be put up so that any damage done to the property while installing the pipeline will be paid for by the company.
And the pipeline will run underground, allowing the property owners to continue to use their land just about any way they want.
"They can farm on it, hunt on it and play on it," he said. "They just can't build a house on it."
March 1, 2016
By Candice Monhollan, cmonhollan@ 21st-centurymedia.com, @CMonhollanDLN on Twitter
EAST GOSHEN >> Sunoco Logistics is just waiting for its permit approvals before it begins on the Mariner East 2 project, which runs through East Goshen. Officials from Sunoco attended a special meeting of the board of supervisors, held especially for an update from the company on Feb. 23.
Mariner East 2 will involve the placement of a new pipeline across Pennsylvania and run alongside the existing Mariner East 1 pipe, which has been in the ground since the 1930s.
“Mariner 2 is a 20-inch pipeline,” said Donald Zoladkiewicz, who works in community relations for Sunoco Logistics. “We have recently announced that we are in an open season. We know today that the 20-inch (Mariner 2) is a go and the 16-inch is still in what we call an open season. That open season dictates whether or not we come out of the open-season process with a project or not.”
While the second, 16-inch line – an expansion to Mariner East 2 – is currently up in the air, Sunoco is also having a delay obtaining its permits required to build the 20-inch pipeline, which comes from federal and state agencies, such as the state Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
However, Sunoco is still pushing ahead to get the easements signed from landowners along the Mariner East corridor, many of whom are still reluctant to give their agreement and signatures and voiced their opinions at the meeting.
“As many of you probably already know, we have two pipelines running through the township and we’re intending to build this pipeline within the existing easement of those pipelines we have in the ground today,” said Matt Gordon, principal engineer and overall project manager for Mariner East. “Those easements have been there since the ‘30s, so we’ve been operating through the township for a very long time.”
Gordon laid out the method Sunoco is intending to use to place the new pipe through East Goshen, which would be with horizontal directional drilling (HDD).
“Almost the entire township is (HDD),” Gordon said. “There are short sections … where the drills start and stop and we have to open a ditch in between to install a piece of pipe between the drills and connect everything together.”
Gordon stressed why HDD is a better way, especially in a high-traffic area such as East Goshen has with Paoli Pike and Boot Road.
“You do not want us taking a backhoe out and shutting down those roads to dig a ditch,” he said. “We would be there for a very long time and your township would be gridlocked. Since PennDOT is in charge of these roads, they also do not want us digging these roads up any more than we would have to.”
HDD would happen under the ground, leaving no disturbance to the roadways and residents who are not near the drills would barely notice anything going on, Gordon said.
Those by the drill, though, would face a different scenario since the drill registers 85 decibels, or about the same as a running tractor-trailer. To help dampen the sound, Sunoco plans to use noise curtains around the drills.
“If that drill machine is in your backyard and you don’t normally have a tractor-trailer idling in your backyard, you’re going to notice it,” Gordon said. “When you’ve lived in the same house for 20 years and you’re used to the same level of ambient noise and something’s different, it might stick out to you.”
Gordon said that to help people who have to face the noise, Sunoco has, in the past, put people up in hotels or have paid a financial compensation for the nuisance.
There is currently planned for four locations in East Goshen where the drills will be placed.
The project, once underway, is expected to take six to eight months with six 10-hour days per week.
To cut the project time down to three months, Sunoco offered that it could instead work 24 hours per day for all seven days a week, which brought a lot of unhappy grumbling from the gathered residents.
However, Sunoco cannot make that decision itself. Instead, Sunoco must leave it up to the township to decide whether it takes the eight months or the 24/7 route, which the board of supervisors said it would hold a resident meeting at a later date when the time comes to make a decision.”
“We’re trying to look at every option we can,” Gordon said.
February 29, 2016
Sunoco Files 29 Lawsuits Against Landowners Along Route in Chester County Alone
Five New Suits From Sunoco Last Week Alone
Here's a visual aid of Sunoco's success in their "negotiations in good faith " with landowners in their path.
For specific information & details, please see original article here.
February 28, 2016
On a Thursday night in July after Jerry Thomas and his wife had gone to bed, a stranger rang the doorbell of their rural Lebanon County home, greeted Thomas with a question about his identity and handed him a thick sheaf of papers.
That was how the Thomases learned an eminent domain lawsuit had been filed against them in court by a major pipeline operator.
"It was pretty scary," he said.
Thomas, an elementary school teacher, and his wife, a dietitian, are among a multitude of property owners across Pennsylvania who have had to deal with the expansion plans of Sunoco Pipeline L.P., a subsidiary of a company that logged $8.2 billion in revenue in the first nine months of 2015.
A Reading Eagle review of prothonotary records in Lebanon, Lancaster, Berks and Chester counties showed Sunoco Pipeline has filed eminent domain lawsuits against property owners in that stretch at least 58 times since late 2013. In Chester County, 14 lawsuits have been filed in the past month alone, including five in the past week.
Sunoco wants access to owners' land to build one or two pipelines that generally will run parallel to existing pipelines installed generations ago.
Spokesman Jeff Shields said Sunoco Pipeline would not disclose how many eminent domain suits have been filed for the project, which crosses 2,700 properties statewide. He said Sunoco tries to avoid eminent domain and has come to compensation terms with most property owners.
Settlements have occurred in some of the 58 suits filed in this region.
But a much-publicized opinion issued by a Philadelphia judge this month has bolstered the contention among property owner advocates that Sunoco does not have the legal right to use eminent domain. And state Sen. Andrew E. Dinniman, a Chester County Democrat, is promoting bills to fix a pipeline planning process that he says favors corporations.
"It is so filled with loopholes that the citizens don't stand a chance," he said.
Question of legality
An opinion issued by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Linda Carpenter on Feb. 5 left open the question of whether Sunoco Pipeline could legally use eminent domain.
The judge wrote that Sunoco used eminent domain through the public utility status it secured with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, but there was evidence that the type of commerce to be carried out through the project was outside PUC jurisdiction.
The case before her pitted two Philadelphia-area property owners and an environmental nonprofit against Sunoco. Carpenter stayed the proceedings and certified the biggest issues for appeal to state Superior Court.
Alex Bomstein, an attorney for the nonprofit Clean Air Council, said the move had statewide implications for Sunoco Pipeline.
"It (the company) is pressuring people throughout the state to sign agreements with it under the false premise that it has rights to eminent domain," Bomstein said.
He called it bullying and said, "It needs to stop."
In a written statement, Sunoco Pipeline said Carpenter's opinion was not a decision on the merits of the case, only a preliminary ruling on standing and jurisdiction.
Her certification of issues for appeal, Sunoco said, recognized that these are questions that are likely to be decided by a higher court.
Shields, the Sunoco spokesman, said three other county-level court cases had all been decided in Sunoco's favor.
"In the courts, when we have had actual issues of condemnation with property owners, the judges have recognized our public utility status and our eminent domain authority," he said.
Jerry and Katherine Thomas built their home on a wooded tract in Heidelberg Township, Lebanon County, in 1989.
They knew pipelines had been in the ground there for decades. They were approached about the expansion project in the past few years by agents working for Sunoco contractors, Jerry Thomas said.
Specifics about what the company wanted - including the width of the easement and the products that were to be carried in the proposed pipelines - changed with time, he said.
The project would involve tearing out trees and shrubs and would come close to their well and swimming pool. Thomas said they received a final offer of $15,800 before the eminent domain suit was filed against them, while professionals they consulted indicated the total of diminished property value and lost trees and landscaping was close to $170,000.
Katherine Thomas said, "It is going to disrupt what we worked so hard to accomplish with our lifestyle."
A spokesman for Percheron LLC, the company contracted by Sunoco Pipeline for land agent services in eastern Pennsylvania, declined comment.
An attorney for the Thomases, Michael F. Faherty of Hershey, said he represents the owners of 120 properties across the state in dealings with Sunoco, and half of those have had eminent domain suits filed against them.
"Many of my clients feel they have been misled and lied to by Sunoco," he said.
A major project
Sunoco has described the project, Mariner East 2, as one of the largest investments in the history of the commonwealth with the potential to temporarily produce more than 30,000 jobs and an economic impact of $4.2 billion.
On Thursday, an executive for Sunoco Pipeline's parent company announced that the projected start-up for the new pipeline service had been pushed back from late this year to the first half of 2017.
It will be used to convey petroleum-related products. Shields said it was not yet clear exactly which products would be in the pipeline, but propane and propylene were strong candidates.
Shields said there was no existing metric to put the number of eminent domain cases into context.
"There really has never been a project of this size," he said.
The company makes every attempt to avoid eminent domain proceedings, he said.
"We attempt to negotiate in good faith," he said.
In Chester County, where Sunoco has filed at least 14 eminent domain lawsuits this month, Pipeline Safety Coalition Executive Director Lynda Farrell said the nonprofit is attempting to count the number of Sunoco property takings statewide.
Given the Philadelphia judge's opinion, Farrell asked, "Is it appropriate for Sunoco to continue to levy eminent domain on landowners?"
Eric Friedman, president of a Delaware County homeowners' association with property on the proposed pipeline route, said Sunoco has tried to create an air of inevitability about the project.
He said, "It is part of the way they induce a feeling of powerlessness among landowners along the route."
Impossible to ignore
Charles Bailey said he was too busy caring for his ailing father and driving his tractor-trailer rig on runs to North Carolina to deal with Sunoco people.
A 51-year-old Reading High School graduate, Bailey had lived in his house on Fritztown Road in Spring Township for about 18 years when he started getting visits from surveyors and Sunoco-related phone calls.
Bailey said he told the visitors to leave his property. He ignored the phone calls.
This month he was sued by Sunoco Pipeline. It was a complaint that sought to compel Bailey to allow Sunoco representatives on his property.
It said, "The development process for Mariner East 2 is well underway, and defendant's refusal to comply with the law has a substantial likelihood of significantly delaying a major project."
Bailey now has a lawyer.
He asked, "Can they take the property?"
February 28, 2016
Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, which operates pipelines and terminals, is poised to export the first U.S. waterborne ethane cargo “within a week,” according to Genscape Inc.
The company’s Mariner East 1 pipeline, which stretches from the Marcellus shale deposit in western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook terminal on the Delaware River near Philadelphia, boosted ethane deliveries on Feb. 22, said Amanda Townsley, senior adviser of petrochemicals and LNG for Genscape, which is monitoring the line. The jump in flows coincides with the arrival of the terminal’s first tanker, the JS Ineos Intrepid, at the ethane dock, she said.
This ethane is contracted to go to Norway as feedstock at processing plants owned by Ineos Europe AG, and will ultimately be used to make products such as plastic. U.S. producers have seen prices for natural gas and liquids tumble as output from shale deposits outpaces demand.
“The first ship at the ethane dock is exciting; this would be the first waterborne export from the U.S. period,” Townsley, based in Houston, said in a telephone interview. “It’s not a massive volume so it’s not a game changer for the supply and demand balance, but it’s a big deal for the producers in the area.”
Range Resources Corp. is contracted to ship 20,000 barrels of ethane on the pipeline to the Philadelphia area terminal, according to its website. Ineos previously announced it also has a long-term contract to purchase ethane from Consol Energy Inc.
Sunoco Logistics spokesman Jeffrey Shields declined to provide updates and said to listen to the company’s earnings call early Thursday for any developments, according to an e-mail Tuesday. He didn’t respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
February 24, 2016
Construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which has provoked landowner opposition along its route, has been pushed back until summer because of delays in obtaining permits, the pipeline's operator said Thursday.
Michael J. Hennigan, chief executive of Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P., told investment analysts that more time was needed to obtain "hundreds of permits" required to build the cross-state pipeline, which will deliver Marcellus Shale natural-gas liquids to Marcus Hook.
"I don't like the word delay," Hennigan said in response to an analyst who used the term. He said the prolonged review was "not an intentional action" by any particular regulatory agency.
The pipeline requires permits from several federal and state agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
No mention was made of Sunoco's ongoing struggles to obtain rights of way from reluctant landowners along the pipeline route. The route largely follows the pathway of the existing Mariner East pipeline, which last year began propane deliveries and this month began sending ethane to Sunoco's terminal in Marcus Hook.
Hennigan said the initial shipment of ethane would begin loading in the next few days, marking the first time that the material, which is used in petrochemical production, will be exported from the United States. Two European plastics producers have signed up to buy the ethane Sunoco delivers to the Delaware River port.
The JS Ineos Intrepid, one of a fleet of new tankers built by the European chemical producer Ineos to carry liquid fuels such as ethane and propane, is moored in Marcus Hook, according to www.marinetraffic.com. A second vessel, the JS Ineos Ingenuity, has been stationed off the Delaware Coast since Sunday night.
Hennigan updated investors on Sunoco's plans during a conference call after the Newtown Square company announced its annual financial results. The company is an affiliate of Energy Transfer Partners L.P. of Dallas.
The delay in the start of construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline would mean the project would come online in the first half of 2017, rather than the end of 2016, Hennigan said.
The Mariner East 2 project would expand the existing pipeline's capacity from 70,000 barrels a day to 345,000. It would deliver natural-gas liquids from the Marcellus and Utica Shale areas of Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and eastern Ohio.
Sunoco is exploring whether there is sufficient producer demand from the shale region to build a second, adjacent Mariner East 2 pipeline. But it has not yet received enough firm commitments from shippers to commit to the expansion, which Hennigan attributed to uncertainty over the current downturn in oil and commodity markets.
The delay in starting Mariner East 2 "kind of gives us a little bit more time" to evaluate whether to commit to the expansion project, Hennigan said. Sunoco has said it would want to build both pipelines simultaneously to reduce costs and disruptions.
The first Mariner East project is a repurposed 300-mile-long, 8-inch-diameter pipeline that was built 84 years ago to deliver refined products from Philadelphia refineries to inland terminals.
February 26, 2016
Legal challenges against Sunoco Logistics Partners LP's proposed Mariner East (ME) pipelines are mounting, as Pennsylvania landowners and an environmental advocacy group are fighting against a subsidiary's efforts to condemn property for the project's path. The court battles could combine with the commodities downturn to delay the project further.
Five condemnation cases in five different counties have already been decided, while others are pending in Lebanon, Cumberland, Washington and Westmoreland counties. Three state courts have dismissed landowner complaints, ruling in favor of Sunoco and deciding it has eminent domain powers as a regulated public utility under state law. But two others have ruled against the company, deeming its ME project an interstate system and finding that as a result it does not have such rights.
The Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court this month certified two landowners and the Clean Air Council to proceed with their lawsuit against Sunoco subsidiary Sunoco Pipeline LP (see Shale Daily, Feb. 16). The judge ruled state courts have jurisdiction in the matter because, among other things, landowner rights under the state constitution are at issue with the threat of property condemnation for ME, opening a new chapter in the proceedings that could set a precedent when it comes to pipeline development in the state.
"What we're alleging here is Sunoco doesn't have the right to use eminent domain," said the Clean Air Council's senior litigation attorney, Alex Bomstein. "If Sunoco wants to try to put this pipeline in another way, it can do that, but it can't take people's private property for its private purpose.
"Sunoco has never expressed to us that, you know, 'if we can go for this reroute, then let's do that,'" he added. "We have no idea what their alternate plans would be if they can't use eminent domain, and we're not going to speculate on that. I have no clue."
The ME project would transport ethane, butane and propane from processing and fractionation complexes in Eastern Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex, a former oil refinery near Philadelphia that's being repurposed for natural gas liquids (NGL) storage, processing and distribution to domestic and international markets (see Shale Daily, Dec. 5, 2013). ME 1 is already fully operational, delivering ethane and propane within the state from Western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook. But the company's 350-mile ME 2 project has been in development since 2014, and it's faced the most resistance from landowners (see Shale Daily, April 28, 2014).
An open season for a third pipeline, called Mariner East 2X, that would run parallel to ME 2 and be constructed at roughly the same time is still ongoing, Sunoco spokesman Jeffrey Shields said (see Shale Daily, Sept. 14, 2015). The company launched the open season last year, saying shippers had indicated they could use the additional capacity. All three pipelines, combined with Mariner West, which moves Marcellus Shale ethane to Michigan and the Canadian border, would have a capacity of up to 800,000 b/d. Despite the current commodities downturn that finds Appalachian producers more focused on dry natural gas production, the ME system has been billed as a welcome solution to getting more of the basin's liquids to market.
"Mariner East 1, together with Mariner East 2 as expanded, would offer superior reliability and tremendous flexibility with multiple lines in service, multiple tankage for each grade of service, a world class terminal and the use of the idled refinery at Marcus Hook for manufacturing growth into the petrochemical sector," said CEO Mike Hennigan on Thursday, during the company's year-end earnings call with financial analysts. "The Mariner East system also has a decided logistical advantage over the Gulf Coast for both the local and international markets. Locally, there's a seasonal premium in the Northeast market...From a waterborne perspective, it's approximately 1,500 miles closer to Europe with no restrictions or congestion as seen in the Houston ship channel."
Sunoco has claimed in court that it has a right to condemn property because of its status as a regulated public utility under state law. At trial, it has produced a number of orders and certificates of public convenience (CPC) relating to ME. Its lawyers also have argued that the project would have a $4.2 billion impact on Pennsylvania and create 30,000 jobs during construction (see Shale Daily, Feb. 6, 2015).
The company has indicated that it won't have to come up with an alternate solution if it's unable to take land through eminent domain. Shields told NGI's Shale Daily that the company has not publicly released how much of ME 2's path has been secured with easements, but he said eminent domain is a "last resort" that represents a small portion of what's needed to build the pipeline. In 2014, the company announced a successful open season for ME 2 (see Shale Daily, Nov. 6, 2014).
"The thing that is most clear from the [Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC)] is that we have certificates of public convenience in each county that we pass through, which is required," Shields said. "That basically acknowledges that the service is for the public benefit. The one new area we had never been in before was Washington County, so we needed a new CPC there, and the PUC speaks broadly in that about why the project is for the public. Even though it's in Washington County, the certificate really speaks to the whole line."
To be sure, the system has already experienced limited delays that weren't entirely unexpected. In 2012, Range Resources Corp. signed a 15-year agreement to become an anchor shipper on ME 1 (seeShale Daily, Sept. 28, 2012). At the time, the company said propane deliveries were expected to begin in the second half of 2014. Ethane deliveries to Marcus Hook were expected to begin in the first half of 2015.
Propane was commissioned on the system in late 2014 and limited deliveries started last year. Sunoco said Thursday that full refrigeration for propane and ethane is now online at Marcus Hook, enabling full operations on ME 1 and faster loading of ships.
But more recently, Sunoco said ethane deliveries would begin at the end of 2015 and that ethane exports were expected to start around the same time (see Shale Daily, June 17, 2015). Hennigan said on Thursday that ethane was introduced into the pipeline for the first time earlier this month.
"We expect to be loading the first ethane ship in a few days," he said during the earnings call.
When Range became the anchor shipper, the company hailed the system as one that would "enhance the economics of our core wet gas production and future resource potential value." But the company did not comment when it was asked if ethane delays on the system had affected it more recently.
Antero Resources Corp. management said during its earnings call on Thursday that it would begin to look at alternatives for moving its Appalachian liquids production to overseas and domestic markets, especially if the ME system is delayed longer. The company didn’t specify on those alternatives, but said a number of confidential projects are in the works to get more liquids out of the basin
Until Thursday, Sunoco had said it would begin construction on ME 2 by June and have it in service by the end of the year.
"Our latest estimate for timing to obtain all necessary permits suggest a first half 2017 start-up," Hennigan said. "We haven't delayed for capital reasons as we would like to get it completed as soon as possible, but we are certainly benefiting indirectly from the capital timing."
Shields said Sunoco is waiting for its permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection to construct the pipeline. He added that the company hopes to have those within the first half of this year, but noted that the time frame is out of the company's control.
With nearly split legal decisions about the project's public utility status from across the state, the matter is likely to be decided by a higher court. Some of the cases have already been appealed, and Sunoco has until March to appeal the Philadelphia County decision.
"That's a hard question to answer directly because we're already working on a case where we're contending that [Sunoco] doesn't have a right to do this and we're expecting the courts to handle that before the end of the year," Bomstein said when asked if his organization would try to delay the project if Sunoco moves forward before its lawsuit is resolved. "We have to see what happens at what point to see what reaction we would make next."
David Brooman, a land-use and environmental law attorney at High Swartz LLP in Montgomery County, PA, who is not involved with the cases but has followed them, said Sunoco's status as a public utility would likely be decided on appeal. If that happens, he added that a resolution isn't likely until the end of the year.
In most cases, plaintiffs have argued that Sunoco shouldn't be allowed to use eminent domain to build the ME pipelines because they've been designed as interstate systems to primarily serve overseas and out-of-state markets that wouldn't benefit the state. Sunoco also has argued that the PUC should decide on the matter and not the state courts.
"Those certificates have nothing to do with certificating Mariner East," Bomstein said. "What Sunoco has is by acquisition from companies that had [CPC's] for the public service of delivering petroleum products from the Philadelphia region westward and northward. Those certificates relate to that public service and not Mariner East."
After it acquired the Sun Pipe Line Co. and the Atlantic Pipeline Corp., Sunoco received a CPC in 2002 related to the transportation assets of those companies across the state. Sunoco later received a CPC for ME in Washington County in which the PUC said the project would benefit the public and acknowledged its mixed intrastate and interstate nature.
"We believe granting Sunoco authority to commence intrastate transportation of propane in Washington County will enhance delivery options for the transport of natural gas and [NGLs] in Pennsylvania," the CPC order said. "In the wake of the propane shortage experienced in 2014, Sunoco's proposed service will increase the supply of propane in markets with a demand for these resources, including in Pennsylvania."
The PUC also said ME 2 would increase takeaway capacity from the Marcellus and "enable Sunoco to provide additional on-loading and off-loading points within Pennsylvania for both intrastate and interstate propane shipments."
Three courts have thus far ruled that the project would benefit the public, finding that Sunoco has not abused the power of eminent domain. The company can not go to FERC because its project would deliver NGLs and not natural gas.
"It may be that the plaintiffs' confusion arises from the fact that the Mariner East 2 pipeline would provide both interstate and intrastate transportation of petroleum products," Washington County Judge William Nalitz said in a January ruling favoring Sunoco. "Interstate transportation is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; intrastate transportation is regulated by the PUC. Nothing prevents interstate and intrastate shipments in the same pipeline."
While it didn't rule on the validity of Sunoco's certificates, the Philadelphia County court recognized that the courts should decide if Sunoco can condemn private property for its project. Plaintiffs in the Clean Air Council case are seeking "relief from uncertainty and insecurity with respect to rights," under Article I, Section 27 of the state's constitution, a rare environmental rights amendment. The Philadelphia County judge reasoned that the courts must decide when it comes to state constitutional rights.
The judgecited the state supreme court's ruling in 2013 that struck down parts of Pennsylvania's omnibus oil and gas law and gave municipalities and residents more say in oil and gas development (see Shale Daily, Dec. 20, 2013; Dec. 27, 2013). That ruling hinged largely on a reading of the environmental rights amendment, which says in part that residents have a right "to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment."
The Clean Air Council brought the environmental rights count against ME in its lawsuit because it believes no significant environmental impact analysis has been done for the project, Bomstein said
"There's a process that has to be in place for a project like this to go ahead," he said. "In this case, we don't believe that there ever was a consideration of the environment during the entirety of the process from start to finish by the state. The state needs to do so if it's going to authorize eminent domain."
Since the high court's ruling, the environmental rights amendment has consistently been invoked by industry opponents in Pennsylvania (see Shale Daily, Dec. 1, 2014). While the argument has mostly been unsuccessful, its use has primarily been related to upstream projects involving the zoning of oil and gas wells (see Shale Daily, Nov. 25, 2015). If a reading of the amendment is somehow included in a decision that would bar Sunoco from using eminent domain, it's unclear how that would affect pipeline siting in the state.
If that were to happen, sources agreed that depending on the judicial opinion and subsequent interpretations, a precedent could be set that would slow the development of similar pipeline projects in the state.
"I think these are legitimate lawsuits. And I think the appellate courts need to decide -- given the unique nature of this pipeline -- whether or not it's a public utility," Brooman said. "These lawsuits, at least the Clean Air Council's lawsuit, does raise some interesting questions under Article I, Section 27, which have not been decided by any court. So, yes, I believe they are legitimate, but I won't make a prediction as to which way it'll turn out."
Industry sources, however, said the legal challenges for ME might not be all that inopportune. NGL prices have plummeted during the commodities downturn, diminishing current demand for the takeaway capacity that ME would offer in Appalachia. If the system is delayed, it could buy producers time to earn more for their products if prices rebound.
"I would tell you that there is still quite a bit of interest, but as you know, the current commodity environment is making everybody a little cautious," Hennigan said on Thursday when asked about contracting and counterparty interest in ME 2 and ME 2X.
"We have been saying to everybody that we would be starting the ME 2 construction period sometime in the early part of this year. Right now, we're thinking it'll move back a little bit…and that gives us a little bit more time. People are hopeful that we're seeing the bottom of the cycle, and if we start to come back up, I think you're going to see a lot more interest."
February 26, 2016
UPPER FRANKFORD TOWNSHIP -- It looks like a winter wonderland right now.
Rolling acres of snow and farmhouses rest between the hills of rural Cumberland County. If Norman Rockwell were painting a picture of Rolfe Blume's land, he'd probably dab in a horse-drawn sled and some carolers.
When the snow melts, some of that land will be used for growing hay around Blume's two houses and the tiny gun shop he owns there. Blume has been able to make ends meet this way for decades.
Cumberland County Property Owners Fight Pipeline Rolfe Blume of Upper Frankford Township discusses the impact a proposed pipeline will have on his land.
But some of his land will now likely be used for a pipeline.
Signs leading to his property indicate his opposition to the pipeline, and a handwritten scrawl on the door to the gun shop reads, "Beware of pipelines," with the "WAR" in "beware" capitalized.
And on the counter of his shop, he keeps a photo of an exploding pipeline.
"This is going to go right by my house," Blume tells customers who ask about the inferno image.
The Mariner East II pipeline is progress, Sunoco Pipeline officials say, and it will be a great benefit to the public, creating jobs and bringing propane and butane to many customers. The necessity for the pipeline became clear after the frigid winter of 2013 and 2014, they say.
The pipeline won't be visible either. Like the original Mariner East built in the 1930s, the proposed Mariner East II will run beneath Blume's farm.
The vast majority of property owners through the state have accepted the easement payments to allow the future pipeline to run beneath their land. Others, like Blume, have been fighting it, and are facing eminent domain proceedings in court.
"They're going to destroy my farm. Destroy my buildings," Blume said.
It's going to be a tough fight for Blume and fellow land owners. Sunoco Pipeline has won all of its recent eminent domain filings.
The Cumberland County case
Blume, along with property owners John Perry and Alan Walters, fought the eminent domain proceedings during a hearing in Cumberland County Court on Feb. 8.
At the hearing, Mike Faherty, the attorney representing them, argued that under state law, eminent domain cannot be used for private enterprise, even if there is an element of public use, which he said is the situation here.
The pipeline will move liquid natural gas from Ohio through Pennsylvania to the Delaware River for shipment overseas, making it subject to federal regulations and not the state regulations that allow for eminent domain, he said.
That argument previously worked in Loper vs Sunoco in April 2014, when York County President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh ruled that Mariner East II was an interstate line because it crossed into other states and did not have any facilities in Pennsylvania for loading or unloading gas products.
Sunoco Logistics made changes after that ruling.
The pipeline now loads and unloads petroleum products in the state, so it meets the definition of a public utility, Sunoco attorneys are arguing.
The pipeline will also have both interstate and intrastate capabilities, with the intrastate portion of that equation subjecting it to the state regulations that allow for eminent domain, they say.
And since it will benefit Pennsylvanians through an enhanced supply and job creation, there is a further public need being met, they argue.
Since the York County case, judges in Huntingdon and Washington counties, as well in another Cumberland County case with different property owners, have ruled that Sunoco Pipeline is indeed a public utility and the company can exercise the power of eminent domain.
After the Feb. 8 hearing, Cumberland County Judge M.L. "Skip" Ebert seemed to indicate he has, so far, heard nothing different from the earlier Cumberland County case that would warrant a different ruling.
The hearing is set to resume on Feb. 29.
In the meantime, the landowners are continuing the fight and hope for the best, though the outcome looks fairly gloomy for them.
"They keep missing the point," property owner John Perry said after the last hearing. "A lot of this natural gas going through the pipeline will be shipped overseas."
Why do we need another pipeline needed?
Jeff Shields, spokesman for Sunoco Pipeline, said the company is on track to complete Mariner East II by the end of 2016.
The current pipeline has the capacity to ship 70,000 barrels per day. Mariner East II, which will run parallel in most places, will be able to ship up to 275,000 barrels per day of liquid natural gas, mainly in the form of propane and butane.
The polar vortex of 2013 and 2014 illustrated the need for this enhanced supply, Shields said.
The new pipeline, he said, "is really going to change the game in terms of propane availability," making much more fuel available for homes, farms and manufacturers.
February 22, 2016
Another Pennsylvania state court has weighed in on Sunoco Logistics Partners LP's Mariner East pipeline projects, this time rejecting the company's efforts to dismiss a lawsuit against it in a decision that's likely to set the stage for a statewide ruling about whether the pipelines have eminent domain rights.
The Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas last week ruled that the Clean Air Council and two affected landowners that brought the lawsuit have standing to bring the case and the court has jurisdiction to hear it.
The plaintiffs argue that Sunoco shouldn't be allowed to use eminent domain to build the Mariner East pipelines because they've been designed as an interstate system to primarily serve overseas markets and not an intrastate system that would benefit the state and qualify for eminent domain status as a public utility. Sunoco continues to maintain that eminent domain is a last resort for parts of its project, but it has argued in this case that the plaintiffs don't have standing, and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission should decide on the matter and not the state court.
The Clean Air Council claims the company has asserted to "landowners along the proposed Mariner East route that it has the right to use eminent domain to build the projects through their properties."
The 350-mile Mariner East 2 pipeline would transport ethane, butane and propane from processing and fractionation complexes in Eastern Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex, a former oil refinery near Philadelphia that's being repurposed for natural gas liquids storage, processing and distribution to domestic and international markets.
Mariner East 1 is already delivering propane within the state and last September the company announced a binding open season for a third pipeline in response to shipper demand (see Shale Daily, Sept. 14, 2015). If constructed, the three pipelines would have a total capacity of 770,000 b/d. Construction on Mariner East 2 is expected to begin this year.
Judge Linda Carpenter sided with the plaintiffs, finding that the system would be engaged in interstate commerce and ruling that they have standing in the matter because their properties would be subject to the impacts of the project.
"By refusing to dismiss our suit and certifying the matter for appeal at this stage, the court now has set the stage for a statewide ruling on whether Sunoco can continue to get away with using eminent domain for private profit at the expense of the environment and the citizens of the commonwealth," said attorney Michael Bomstein, who represents the landowners.
But Sunoco said in a statement that the court failed to rule on the merits of the case and said the decision was limited to standing and jurisdiction, adding "that these are questions that are likely to be decided by a higher court."
The Clean Air Council said it expects Sunoco to appeal the ruling to the Pennsylvania Superior Court within a month. In any event, the matter of whether the project has eminent domain status appears to be headed to a higher court. Last week's ruling was the latest in a series of split decisions on the matter across the state.
In December, the Washington County Court of Common Pleas ruled that Mariner East 2 meets the criteria of a public utility with eminent domain rights (see Shale Daily, Dec. 28, 2015) . The Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas made a similar ruling before that (see Shale Daily, Oct. 6, 2015).
In 2014, however, the York County Common Pleas Court found that the pipeline was an interstate system with no eminent domain powers. Other cases against the project are still pending in Washington and Westmoreland counties.
February 17, 2016
Behind Sunoco's headquarters relocation to Dallas' North Central Expressway corridor
When Sunoco LP (NYSE: SUN) began looking for a new operational headquarters location in Dallas following the acquisition of the company by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE: ETP), the energy company wanted to be in close proximity to its new parent company and offer a good lifestyle for executives.
Those needs quickly led the energy company to a newly built office building at The Shops at Park Lane, said Jeff Shields, a communications manager for Sunoco, who still operates in Philadelphia.
"That area is really a great area because it's close to transportation and highways, great schools and is an attractive neighborhood," Shields told the Dallas Business Journal."The whole development is really a great complex and this will be attractive for our employees and prospective employees as well."
Employees have begun moving from Corpus Christi, Philadelphia, Houston and elsewhere into the new operational headquarters for Sunoco at 8020 Park Lane at The Shops at Park Lane, he said. In all, the company expects to have more than 400 employees in its new corporate office.
"We've begun moving into the new space, but people are still in the process of relocating to Dallas," Shields told me. "This will take place over the next several months into the middle of the year."
In 2012, Energy Transfer Partners acquired Philadelphia-based Sunoco Inc. in 2012, then it acquired Corpus Christi-based Susser Holdings Corp. and the general partner interest in Houston-based Susser Petroleum Partners LP, which became Sunoco LP in October 2014.
Sunoco, which sells gasoline and convenience store food, has yet to be impacted by the downturn of the energy industry, Shields said. "We are really in a dynamic growth period right now," he told me. "We are opening stores everyday and really looking to grow throughout the country and especially in Texas. This is still a growing market for us."
He added that the company was also attracted to Dallas-Fort Worth's central time zone as it expands throughout the United States.
In a letter to the Texas Workforce Commission in early February, Sunoco's vice president of human resources Teresa Gavigan reported that 161 employees at the company's Corpus Christi corporate office will be let go as part of the move to Dallas. Layoffs are expected to begin as early as April 1. Shares of Sunoco have dropped about 40 percent over the past year. The stock is currently trading around $29, well below its high of $53.59 in May.
The new office building at 8020 Park Lane was recently completed and will have ground-floor retail at The Shops at Park Lane. Sunoco has leased 120,923 square feet of office space, which is the largest lease of its kind in the North Central Expressway corridor in the past 10 years.
Dan Harris, Randy Cooper and Craig Wilson of Cushman & Wakefield represented Sunoco in its real estate search. Sandy Spurgin of Northwood Retail represented the landlord in the deal.
Even though the operational headquarters for Sunoco LP and C-level executives will be located in Dallas, the company plans to keep its legal headquarters in Houston for purposes in filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Candace covers commercial and residential real estate and sports business.
February 16, 2016
— What can happen when an entire nation realizes they have "affluenza" —
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
This next story is about what the huge drop in oil prices means for the average person in Saudi Arabia. Oil has gone from more than $100 a barrel to less than $30 a barrel in the last year and a half. Almost all of Saudi Arabia's money comes from oil, and now it needs a plan B. Stacey Vanek Smith from our PLANET MONEY podcast has the story.
STACEY VANEK SMITH, BYLINE: Abdulaziz (ph) lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. We're just using his first name because Saudis can get into serious trouble with the government for saying the wrong thing. In a lot ways, Abdulaziz's life seems very American. He works at a tech startup. He loves "Game Of Thrones." In a lot of ways, though, his life is very different.
How much do you pay in income tax?
SMITH: No income tax.
ABDULAZIZ: No, no income tax.
SMITH: Sales tax?
ABDULAZIZ: No sales tax.
SMITH: Property tax - do you pay property tax?
ABDULAZIZ: No, no any kind of tax.
SMITH: It's not just that Abdulaziz doesn't pay taxes. He gets all kinds of perks from the government. Electricity is so heavily subsidized it's basically free. People leave their air conditioners on when they go on vacation. Healthcare is free. Gas costs around 50 cents a gallon. And all of this is paid for with oil money. The Saudi government gets so much oil revenue that it spreads the wealth around in the form of subsidies and also jobs. Eighty percent of Saudis who work work for the government. Abdulaziz told me over Skype almost everyone he knows has a government job.
You know, the government jobs - are they hard? Are they serious jobs?
ABDULAZIZ: Definitely no. Definitely no. You should be seen in the office like once every 40 days.
SMITH: For some people that never go to work?
ABDULAZIZ: Yeah, and no one can fire you. They could just transfer you to other departments.
SMITH: That is starting to change. David Ottaway is with the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. He says the Saudi economy has slowed to a crawl.
DAVID OTTAWAY: You see construction halting. You see the cranes no longer swinging in the air.
SMITH: Saudi Arabia doesn't really have other industries. Ottaway says the country's economy is addicted to oil.
OTTAWAY: It is so abundant and so easily available, the tendency, unfortunately, is to continue to depend on it.
SMITH: All of the country's money comes from one company - Saudi Aramco. It is almost unimaginably enormous. Estimates put it at around $4 trillion. To give you an idea of how big that is, take Apple, Google, Exxon, Walmart, Citibank and GE. Add them all together, and you are halfway there. And we know almost nothing about Aramco. It's controlled by the royal family, and it's notoriously secretive. But now that Saudi Arabia is desperate for new sources of money, it's floating the idea of selling shares of Aramco. David Ottaway says that would be tricky. If Aramco starts taking shareholders' money, those shareholders will start wanting to know things.
OTTAWAY: Transparency would be a real shock for Aramco. If they had to explain to the public how much money they're spending on building palaces and providing to princes - you know, there are probably 5,000, 6,000 princes.
SMITH: There are 6,000 princes? That's a lot of princes.
SMITH: In the meantime, the government has done something kind of amazing. A few weeks ago, it announced that it would be rolling back subsidies on electricity, water and gas. And for the first time, Saudis would pay taxes - a sales tax on some items. Abdulaziz, the tech worker in Riyadh, says it was shocking.
What did you think when he told you that?
ABDULAZIZ: I was a little bit scared.
SMITH: Why were you scared?
ABDULAZIZ: We don't have taxes anymore in Saudi Arabia.
SMITH: Abdulaziz was worried people would freak out. He says it's been OK, but everybody's nervous. Everything is getting more expensive, and their whole way of life is changing. Ultimately though, Abdulaziz thinks that could be a good thing. When the Saudi government was paying for everything, many people didn't feel like they had a right to weigh in on what the government did.
ABDULAZIZ: Because it's not their money the government's spending on us, so when they start paying, they will understand, like, we deserve this. This is our money.
SMITH: Now, the people are contributing money to the government. Abdulaziz thinks they might feel more entitled to contribute their opinion, too. Stacy Vanek Smith, NPR News.
February 12, 2016
By Alex Rose, email@example.com, @arosedelco on Twitter
MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge has denied a request from Sunoco to dismiss a legal challenge to its Mariner East 2 pipeline project.
Judge Linda Carpenter certified the civil complaint filed by an environmental group and two landowners for interlocutory appeal to the state Superior Court and stayed any proceedings in the case.
“As best we can tell, this is the first time that a Court of Common Pleas opinion has recognized the broad range of legal and constitutional issues posed by these interstate pipeline projects,” said attorney Michael Bomstein, one of the affected landowners, in a release. “By refusing to dismiss our suit and certifying the matter for appeal at this stage, the court now has set the stage for a statewide ruling on whether Sunoco can continue to get away with using eminent domain for private profit at the expense of the environment and the citizens of the commonwealth.”
The Mariner East 2 would transport natural gas liquids from Ohio, West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex for processing and transport overseas.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has determined the project is a public utility, which grants Sunoco the ability to acquire private property or easements under eminent domain.
The Clean Air Council and the Law Offices of Pinnola and Bomstein filed a civil action against Sunoco in August challenging the pipeline’s public utility status and the company’s right to eminent domain.
The complaint claims the $3 billion project would be moving gas liquids such as propane, ethane, and butane across state lines without serving any public need within the commonwealth.
Sunoco moved to dismiss the complaint, claiming the plaintiffs do not have legal standing, but Carpenter denied that motion Wednesday.
The judge noted two of the plaintiffs live in Media and would be impacted by “air pollution, noise and permanent alteration of aesthetics of their property” if the proposed pipeline is built.
“As such, this court has determined that they have a substantial, direct and immediate interest in enjoining the Mariner East 2 pipeline project,” she said.
Carpenter also found the plaintiffs’ arguments “amply support a finding that Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 project is engaged in interstate commerce,” noting Sunoco itself has admitted the pipeline would cross state lines.
A York County judge hearing a similar challenge previously sided with landowners who claimed the project is an interstate pipeline because the plan did not include facilities to offload petroleum products within the state.
Cumberland County Common Pleas Court Judge Edward Guido ruled in September that the company has since amended that plan to include loading and offloading facilities, however, bringing the project in line with the definition of both an interstate pipeline subject to federal authority and an intrastate pipeline subject to PUC regulation.
Carpenter said that despite Sunoco’s averment that the pipeline has intrastate applications for public benefit, she could not ignore the plaintiffs’ argument that the project is “inherently and primarily interstate and commercial in nature.”
She also dismissed Sunoco’s claim that the PUC should hear the case instead of the court, finding the commission does not have exclusive jurisdiction due to the interstate commerce nature of the pipeline.
Sunoco is expected to appeal the ruling to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Company spokesman Jeff Shields noted in an emailed statement that Carpenter’s order did not address any of the actual claims alleged in the complaint.
“There has been no decision on the merits in the case,” he said. “Judge Carpenter ruled that the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction, but also certified the issues for appeal, recognizing that these are questions that are likely to be decided by a higher court.”
Sunoco has indicated capacity for the Mariner East pipelines could reach 675,000 barrels of natural gas products per day. Philadelphia-based Econsult Solutions, Inc. conducted a study for Sunoco last year that found the projects could add up to $4.2 billion to the state’s economy, supporting more than 30,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and 300 to 400 permanent jobs once completed.
February 11, 2016
A Philadelphia judge ruled that a legal challenge to Sunoco Logistics’ use of eminent domain for construction of its Mariner East 2 pipeline can go ahead despite the company’s call for the court to dismiss the case.
Judge Linda Carpenter of the city’s Court of Common Pleas, in a decision published on Wednesday, sided with the environmental group Clean Air Council and two other plaintiffs who sued Sunoco last year, arguing that the company is not entitled to seize private land through eminent domain for the pipeline because it is not legitimately operating as a public utility in Pennsylvania.
The plaintiffs say that because the pipeline would carry natural gas liquids from Ohio and West Virginia through Pennsylvania, and that most of the liquids would be sold overseas, the pipeline is predominantly an interstate – not intrastate — entity, and so should not be given public utility status that would allow the company to assert eminent domain.
Judge Carpenter agreed with the plaintiffs on the nature of Sunoco’s operation, saying their arguments “amply support a finding that Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 project is engaged in interstate commerce.”
She argued that the company itself has stated that it would operate the pipeline across state lines, and said that its plans to sell NGLs overseas are “highly contrary” to the existing Mariner 1 pipeline which carries the liquids within the Commonwealth, making the public the “primary beneficiary” of the product.
The judge rejected an argument by Sunoco that the plaintiffs don’t have standing to bring the case before the court, saying that two of them live in a property in Media, PA that would be subject to air pollution, noise and a “permanent alteration of aesthetics” by the pipeline.
“This court has determined that they have a substantial, direct and immediate interest in enjoining the Mariner East 2 pipeline project, and thus have proper standing,” the judge wrote.
And she dismissed the company’s claim that the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, not the court, should hear the case.
“The Public Utility Commission does not have exclusive jurisdiction over the issues presented here,” the judge wrote in a 12-page opinion.
Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, a spokesman for the PUC, said the regulator does not expect the ruling to affect its jurisdiction over intrastate pipeline operations. He noted that the judge was ruling on the preliminary objections, not on the full case brought by the plaintiffs.
Sunoco issued a brief statement saying that the ruling was restricted to the issues of standing and jurisdiction, and did not address the merits.
“There has been no decision on the merits in the case,” said company spokesman Jeff Shields, in a statement.” Judge Carpenter ruled that the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction but also certified the issues for appeal, recognizing that these are questions that are likely to be decided by a higher court.”
While the company argued that the judge was not ruling on the merits of the case, Clean Air Council said the decision raises new questions about whether Sunoco could use eminent domain to obtain land for the pipeline.
“While Sunoco has been asserting to landowners along the proposed Mariner East route that it has the right to use eminent domain to build the projects through their properties, this decision makes very clear that Sunoco’s right of eminent domain is not nearly so well established as it has been trying to convince citizens it is,” the nonprofit said.
Alex Bomstein, an attorney for the environmental group, said the ruling on standing could be interpreted to mean that pipeline opponents have a right to take legal action against a project even if their own property would not be directly built on. If so, the ruling could have an effect beyond the Mariner East 2 project, he said.
Opponents of the 350-mile pipeline plan include Elise Alcyone, whose mother, Ellen Gerhart, has been fighting Sunoco’s plan to build the pipeline on her 27-acre property in Huntingdon County.
Alcyone welcomed Judge Carpenter’s ruling as a “thoughtful opinion” that goes against those of some other Pennsylvania judges who have recently upheld Sunoco’s right to assert eminent domain.
But Alcyone said the latest opinion may be too late for her mother, who is awaiting tree-clearance on her land after losing her own case against Sunoco in a county court.
“Had we had this ruling to use as precedent in court, we may not be in the same situation we are in now, waiting for tree-clearing crews to come in any day,” she said.
Michael Faherty, an attorney who represents about 60 land owners who are fighting eminent domain cases, called the ruling “a wonderful decision” that represents a setback for Sunoco’s efforts to assert eminent domain.
Faherty said the ruling differs from that of other county judges by looking in detail at the issue of interstate commerce, and may become a template for future litigation on the issue.
“Judge Carpenter’s analysis of long established interstate commerce law may provide strong guidance for trial judges and appeal judges as property rights in Pennsylvania are under review,” Faherty said.
After a number of rulings by county judges, most of which have backed Sunoco’s use of eminent domain, the latest decision is expected to set a statewide standard on the issue, said Michael Bomstein, another plaintiff and the father of Alex Bomstein.
“By refusing to dismiss our suit and certifying the matter for appeal at this stage, the court now has set the stage for a statewide ruling on whether Sunoco can continue to get away with using eminent domain for private profit at the expense of the environment and the citizens of the Commonwealth,” Michael Bomstein said.
The judge certified the case for appeal to the state Superior Court, where it is now expected to be argued.
This story has been updated with comments from the landowner’s attorney.
A Philadelphia judge has ruled that an environmental advocacy group and Delaware County landowners can proceed with legal action to try to stop Sunoco Pipeline from using eminent domain for its latest project.
"This is a great victory for Pennsylvania residents and landowners," Joseph Otis Minott, executive director and chief counsel of the Clean Air Council, said in a statement Wednesday.
Sunoco is expected to appeal the ruling to Superior Court.
Common Pleas Court Judge Linda Carpenter ruled last week that the Clean Air Council and a Delaware County couple could pursue their lawsuit against Sunoco. Other residents near the proposed pipeline also have standing to sue, Carpenter ruled.
Sunoco had argued that the group and residents lacked standing and that the Public Utility Commission, not the court, should decide how the company could use landowners' properties along its pipeline route.
Jeff Shields, a Sunoco spokesman, emphasized Wednesday that the judge simply said the lawsuit could continue and made no final decision on it.
Other recent court rulings across the state have upheld Sunoco's right to exercise eminent domain as the company builds its Mariner East 2 pipeline project. The company's plan to transport Marcellus Shale natural gas liquids to Marcus Hook has angered residents along the route.
Judges ruled against landowners in Cumberland, Washington and Huntingdon Counties within the last several months.
But the Philadelphia ruling "has set the stage for a statewide ruling on whether Sunoco can continue to get away with using eminent domain for private profit at the expense of the environment and the citizens of the commonwealth," said Michael Bomstein, a lawyer representing himself and his wife in the suit against Sunoco.
He and the environmental group sued in August, asking the court to rule that Sunoco is not allowed to use eminent domain against landowners. The Clean Air Council holds that Sunoco's plan to transport natural gas liquids out of Pennsylvania disqualifies it from eminent domain rights.
Sunoco said the pipeline's products also will be used within the state.
Clean Air Council and Impacted Landowners Defeat Sunoco Efforts to Throw Out Lawsuit Challenging Mariner East Pipelines
Philadelphia, PA - The Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas today rejected Sunoco Pipeline L.P.’s attempts to throw out a lawsuit challenging Sunoco’s Mariner East pipeline projects. The Court ruled that plaintiffs Clean Air Council and two impacted landowners have standing to bring the case and the Court has jurisdiction to hear it.
If approved, the Mariner East projects would transport natural gas liquids—primarily ethane, propane, and butane—from Ohio, West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near Philadelphia for export overseas. Clean Air Council and the Law Offices of Pinnola and Bomstein argue that Sunoco should not be allowed to use eminent domain to build its Mariner East pipelines because Sunoco has not obtained the approvals necessary to give it rights of condemnation and because the projects would not serve any public need in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. While Sunoco has been asserting to landowners along the proposed Mariner East route that it has the right to use eminent domain to build the projects through their properties, this decision makes very clear that Sunoco’s right of eminent domain is not nearly so well established as it has been trying to convince citizens it is.
The Court also agreed with the plaintiffs that those living nearby the pipeline have the legal standing to sue because residents living near the pipeline projects would be affected by the pipelines even if their land would not be taken for the route.
“This is a great victory for Pennsylvania residents and landowners,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “Today, the Court declared that Pennsylvania citizens threatened by these pipelines have a right to have their legal claims move forward, despite Sunoco’s attempts to shut the courtroom doors on them. We appreciate the Court’s thoughtful and well-reasoned opinion.”
“As best we can tell, this is the first time that a Court of Common Pleas opinion has recognized the broad range of legal and constitutional issues posed by these interstate pipeline projects,” said Michael Bomstein, attorney for plaintiffs deMarteleire and Bomstein. “By refusing to dismiss our suit and certifying the matter for appeal at this stage, the Court now has set the stage for a statewide ruling on whether Sunoco can continue to get away with using eminent domain for private profit at the expense of the environment and the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said attorney Bomstein.
Sunoco Pipeline is expected to appeal the ruling to the Pennsylvania Superior Court within a month.
February 10, 2016
Marcellus Shale drillers for years have been digging up southwestern Pennsylvania fields, farmland and backyards, tapping into a pool of energy beneath that corner of the state.
Because extracting oil and gas outpaces the infrastructure to deliver it, pipeline builders across the country are working to catch up and create an underground network to transport the state's natu
Some of those pipelines cross the midstate, drawing ire from many local property owners.
"They can keep it in Pittsburgh. We don't want it out here," said Sam Kerig, a 71-year-old Lancaster resident.
In Lancaster County, pipelines have been heavily opposed. On Monday, eight people were arrested when three dozen people protested a Williams Partners project they said desecrated Native American land.
Additional protests have also been held in other parts of the region, but pipeline projects continue to move forward.
The state continues to grant approvals to pipeline builders, treating them as public utilities with eminent domain rights. That gives companies cart blanche to dig up various properties across Pennsylvania, whether it's a private residence or a public park. It also makes companies subject to greater regulations.
Pipeline builders first try to strike deals with landowners, drafting leases that typically include payment and a guarantee the property will be cleaned up when the work is finished.
If a landowner opposes the development, the law generally sides with eminent domain rights.
A company with two pipelines moving through the region has those rights.
After a legal debate in early October, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Oct. 24 said Sunoco Logistics qualifies as a public utility.
During the first week of November, the Philadelphia-based company announced plans for a $2.5 billion pipeline that spans 350-miles and cuts through 14 counties in southern Pennsylania.
Called the Mariner East 2 pipeline, it will stretch parallel to the existing Mariner East 1, moving butane, propane and other gases from the Marcellus Shale to its Marcus Hook storage and distribution center near Philadelphia.
Those resources will be used throughout the state and will also be exported, according to the company.
While Mariner East 1 is ready to move resources, Mariner East 2 won't be operational until the end of 2016.
The company is presently seeking easements with land owners, said spokesman Jeff Shields.
"While the PUC has reaffirmed Sunoco Pipeline's public utility corporation status, we respect landowner rights, we take those rights very serious, and we appreciate the enormity of such authority," he said.
The company will negotiate with each landowner to address their needs, special circumstances and concerns, Shields said.
"Sunoco Pipeline exercises eminent authority, if at all, in very limited cases, cautiously, and only as a last resort when negotiations with a landowner fail and can impede the successful completion of the project," he said.
A year ago, more than two dozen Washington County residents challenged a different Sunoco pipeline that stalled a project there.
The company faced opposition from a York County landowner, but it was quickly resolved.
In New York, regulators have scheduled three public hearings next week on state permits for the Constitution Pipeline, a 124-mile natural gas line that will move from Pennsylvania to Schoharie County.
The $750 million project, which is another Williams Partners pipeline, has been met with considerable opposition and has involved eminent domain threats from developers, according to the Associated Press.
Such legal fights are becoming more common in the new energy landscape.
"From a landowner perspective, you own land until such a time a gas line wants to run through it," said John Smith, a Washington County lawyer who represents landowners and local governments.
Smith, of Smith Butz LLC, was also lead counsel for the fight against Act 13, the state's oil and gas legislation passed in 2012.
Dealing with eminent domain rights from pipeline companies is new for many local residents and municipalities, he said.
Municipalities are accustomed to dealing with situations from known utilities, such as sewer companies using eminent domain to put in a sewer line.
"Landowners don't see an immediate benefit from a pipeline the way they would a sewer line or telephone line," Smith said.
And that raises an important question, he added.
"The unique question here is whether a pipeline builder is a true public utility? The answer to that question is always the catalyst for a company getting eminent domain," Smith said.
January 08, 2015
CARLISLE – It was difficult to tell who was getting more honks from passing cars – the handful of protesters or the man in a Statue of Liberty costume advertising a tax-preparation service.
But cars were honking, and what was clear from the signs the protesters carried was that they did not want Sunoco Pipeline's proposed Mariner East II running through Cumberland County.
And while there were a few protesters outside of the Cumberland County Courthouse Monday morning, about 30 more people filled a courtroom, coming out in support of three Upper Frankford Township property owners who fear having a liquid natural gas pipeline running under their land.
It will devalue their properties, cutting them by about 40 percent, property owner Rolfe Blume said.
Property Owners Oppose Pipeline Upper Frankford Township resident Rolfe Blume addresses why he opposes Sunoco Pipeline's plans to run a natural gas pipeline through his property.
And it could be dangerous, too, neighbor John Perry added, saying there is a 1,000-foot "hazard zone" around the proposed line that could affect his land and the people who live nearby should there be an accident.
After the first day of a hearing in Cumberland County Court, the main question at issue remains unanswered.
Does Sunoco Pipeline have the authority to take a portion of land from three Cumberland County property owners?
Judge M.L. "Skip" Ebert heard from the company and from the property owners who filed objections with court over Sunoco Pipeline's declaration of taking.
Sunoco officials indicate they have that authority, saying they are a public utility with the right to exercise eminent domain to take land in the services of public need.
"We've had decisions in three other counties to date involving eight separate properties," said communications manager for Sunoco, Jeff Shields. "They said very clearly that we are a public utility with eminent domain authority and our project is something that serves the public need."
But the property owners argue otherwise.
"The only need here is for Sunoco to make a profit," said Michael Faherty, the attorney representing the property owners.
Both parties will have to wait a little while longer to find out who is right, though. The hearing will not resume again until Feb. 29.
Faherty worked to build the case on Monday that under state law, eminent domain cannot be used for private enterprise, even if there is an element of public use.
And since the Mariner East pipeline expansion, called Mariner East II, will be used for overseas export, that constitutes a private enterprise and no public need, he argued.
Additionally, this makes Sunoco's Mariner East II pipeline an interstate pipeline rather than an intrastate pipeline, and thus subject to federal regulations, which do not grant Sunoco eminent domain, he said.
But Sunoco Pipeline's attorneys said many of these issues were already resolved not just in other counties, but in Cumberland County, as well, when Judge Edward Guido ruled in favor of the company's ability to exercise its power of eminent domain.
Expanding the pipeline system with Mariner East II became necessary with the frigid temperatures that came with the polar vortex in the winter of 2013 and 2014, creating a greater public need for propane, vice president of business development Aaron Alexander testified Monday.
Faherty pointed out, though, that the propane will be going across Pennsylvania and into Delaware for shipment overseas.
"How does that benefit the public in Pennsylvania?" Faherty asked.
Alexander told him the public benefiting can also include the shipping companies.
And when Faherty went on to point out the contracts currently associated with the expansion do not require offloading in Pennsylvania, Alexander countered offloading locally is not required, but the contracts do allow for it.
"They allow for intrastate movements as well as interstate movements," he said.
Alexander also said he does not agree with Faherty's labeling Sunoco Pipeline as private enterprise, saying the company is a public utility and their rates have been approved by the the state.
When Blume, who has owned his Upper Frankford Township property since 1965, took the stand, he said the pipeline will prevent crops from growing and will ruin several buildings on his land.
And being in a "hazard zone" around the pipeline devalues his property and will make it difficult to sell, he said.
But Sunoco Pipeline's attorney, Alan Boynton, countered that the pipeline will be underground, and property owners are still free to use the land above however they wish. Any damage will be compensated, as well, he said.
Though the hearing has been continued until the end of the month, property-owner Perry did not feel too confident about their chances of success. The judge indicated he's still bound by his fellow judge's ruling unless he hears something different than what has already been ruled upon.
"They keep missing the point," Perry said. "A lot of this natural gas going through the pipeline will be shipped overseas."
And Blume, who carries a folder full of photos of burning infernos from pipelines, is hoping the judge will prevent the pipeline from going through his land.
"The line they want to put in is 100 feet from the farmhouse," he said. "It's dangerous."Ed note - this appears to be Mr. Sooy's email address for more information or contributions: firstname.lastname@example.org
CARLISLE, Pa. — Three landowners in Cumberland County are fighting condemnation of pieces of their property by Sunoco Logistics as the company looks to expand a natural gas pipeline. The landowners and Sunoco appeared before Judge Merle Ebert in court Monday to begin what could be a lengthy legal process.
The pipeline project is called Mariner East 2 and it is planned to run from Ohio, through West Virginia into Pennsylvania and eventually end in Delaware where the natural gas could be placed on ships at port and sent across the world. The 375-mile pipeline would be a combination of existing and new infrastructure to help ship the growing natural gas product to port.
The case in question began late last year when Sunoco sent letters to the homeowners, including Ralph and Doris Blume, John and Audrey Perry and Allen Walters, saying that the company was going to explore portions their land for this project. According to testimony Monday, the letter also said that if the homeowner did not comply, the company would begin the process of eminent domain to get the work done.
The landowners attorney, Michael Fahrety, argued three separate points before the judge including the power of interstate commerce, the proper use of the bond and appraisal process in this case and also whether this project is excessive because there is already another pipeline used to ship other gas across the state.
The first witness on the stand, called by the defense, was Vice-President of Business Development for Sunoco, Harry Alexander.
Several protesters stood out front of the Cumberland County Courthouse in Carlisle holding signs protesting the idea of Sunoco seizing the land. There is no timetable for when the judge will make a ruling.
February 8, 2016
RADNOR >> Three political leaders from Montgomery, Chester and Delaware counties brought an optimistic message on Friday to members of the Main Line Chamber of Commerce meeting.
Val Arkoosh, the Montgomery County Commissioner Vice Chairman; Terence Farrell, the Chester County Commissioner Chairman; and Mario Civera Jr., the Delaware County Council Chairman, painted a picture of fiscal optimism for their 2016 county budgets for about 60 chamber members at the Woodcrest Mansion at Cabrini College.
Their collective views on the state budget impasse and the affects on county finances were decidedly downbeat.
“When Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards assumed office in 2012 they arrived after five consecutive years of budget deficits, no payments into the county pension fund since 2007 and a reserve fund very close to empty,” said Arkoosh. “I believe they had to borrow money to make the county payroll in the first month.”
Arkoosh, a Democratic candidate for Montgomery County commissioner in the Nov. 3 election, was appointed by Montgomery County judges in January to replace Richards, who became Gov. Tom Wolf’s transportation secretary.
The Montgomery County commissioners have recovered from the rocky fiscal start in 2012 by trimming part of the county workforce, reorganizing departments and adopting new financial controls.
The management of pension funds was changed so 90 percent went into passive investments that save $1.3 million a year in management fees, Arkoosh said. The county is now at 90 percent funding of pensions.
Chester County has used conservative fiscal management to maintain the county’s strong, AAA bond rating. County officials have been spending $6 million a month from reserve funds, cut payments to vendors to 80 percent and made other fiscal trims to cope with the state budget impasse that has temporarily ended state subsidy payments, Farrell said.
“Our pension is 94 percent funded which is up from 86 percent,” Farrell said. “We made the full pension payment this year. In coming years we will have the actuary require a larger contribution because people are living longer.”
Delaware County is in good shape financially.
“We have a healthy reserve account for next year,” said Civera, the Delaware County chairman. “There will be no tax increase on Delaware County residents.”
In response to questions from Bernard Dagenais, the president of the chamber, Civera, a Republican who served in the state House from 1980 to 2010, dissected the causes of the state budget impasse.
“There have been some mistakes in how the budget was handled. I like the governor. I believe the governor should have accepted the budget passed by the legislature.”
Civera said Wolf could accept the passed budget and then “blue line” (cut) any budget line items he did not like.
“(Gov. Ed) Rendell did that to one budget. There is the art of compromise,” Civera said. “Unfortunately between Washington and Harrisburg compromise has been lost.”
Civera used the example of the $2.3 billion, state transportation bill adopted in November 2013 as constructive compromise that benefited Pennsylvania residents.
“That bill was a true example of people working together. We in Delaware County have 45 bridges and a good half of them are being repaired,” he said. “State highways are being repaved. Had that bill not passed you would be nowhere.”
Arkoosh was passionate in defending Wolf’s budget proposals.
“This is not about numbers on a spread sheet. It is impacting real people. Our children need an education,” Arkoosh said. “The governor won the election with a clear mandate. There has to be some compromise on both sides. There is much more agreement than disagreement.”
Farrell pointed out that state workers were not paid during the last budget impasse but that rule was changed to allow salary payments without an approved state budget.
“At the county level, we are actually paying the state revenues we collect to the state,” Farrell said. “Maybe the conversation should be there. I’ll leave it at that.”
Spending on transportation needs, public transit and the continuing expansion of recreational trails were explained by all three elected leaders.
“Montgomery County has 120 bridges and 70 miles of roads. Sixty two of the bridges are structurally deficient and we are working on fixing them,” Arkoosh said. “There are very few entrances and exits on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This leads to terrible congestion and backups. Route 95 has four times the number of exits. We’re looking at putting slip ramps in several places including Upper Merion, Norristown, Plymouth, Willow Grove and Horsham.”
“Chester County is the fastest growing county. Parking is a problem at the regional rail stations and we are looking at a new train station in Coatesville,” Farrell said. “We are also looking at expanding the trail system.”
Civera said the rebirth of industry, exemplified by Sunoco Logistics and Monroe Energy LLC, had boosted Delaware County’s future prospects.
“The Delaware River. It is on fire,” Civera said. “We are now in a competitive business. We are going to be the ‘Houston of Pennsylvania’ because of (Marcellus Shale) natural gas.”
October 23, 2015
No doubt there are a lot of people in Delaware County who know all too well just how Dannel Malloy feels.
Malloy happens to be the governor of Connecticut. He’s under fire for his administration’s stance toward business, in particular now that one of the state’s icons - General Electric - has given notice that it is pulling up stakes and heading for greener climate a tad bit north in Boston.
Delco leaders know that feeling. The county has lost its share of industrial icons.
Names such as Westinghouse, Scott Paper and others come to mind.
Most recently, the lower end of the county was rocked by word that not one but two local refineries would close their doors, potentially shuttering a way of life, and a ticket to a solid, middle-class life.
First it was Sunoco. There are few names more iconic in the county. J. Howard Pew started his refinery in Marcus Hook on the banks of the Delaware River more than hundreds years ago.
But this was not Pew’s Sun. In fact, this sun was setting. The company said if it could not find a buyer, the facility would be shuttered. The same fate awaited the company’s sprawling refinery in southwest Philadelphia.
That must have sounded pretty good to the brass at ConocoPhillips. A few weeks later, they indicated a similar fate was in store for their refinery next door in Trainer.
That’s when elected officials went to work. A full-court press resulted in something of a miracle. Sunoco’s Philly facility was salvaged, and is now up and running as Philadelphia Energy Solutions.
In Trainer, Delta Air Lines saw a solution to its chronic jet fuel woes. No one had ever heard of an airline running a refinery. That did not stop local leaders, labor and business from thinking outside the box. The result was one of the true success stories in Delaware County. Monroe Energy is being credited with shaving billions off the bottom line for the airline.
Not quite as lucky was the iconic Marcus Hook refinery. A buyer for it could not be found. But Sunoco Logistics continues to pour money into the facility and has big plans for the Hook location as a key fixture in making the region the “energy hub” for the entire Northeast part of the U.S., utilizing material being produced by the state’s Marcellus Shale boom.
Malloy would do well to pick up the phone and pick a few brains around here.
The Connecticut leader is taking it on the chin from critics, including Republicans and some leaders in the business community, who say “he blew it” by failing to keep GE’s headquarters in the state.
The loss adds to Connecticut’s reputation of fostering a climate unfriendly to businesses.
General Electric is taking hundreds of jobs and its global headquarters north to Boston, into an atmosphere that CEO Jeff Immelt says “shares our aspirations.”
Immelt cited schools, a high-tech economy and spending on research and development.
GE’s departure from the land of Yale and UConn and other worthy schools, for Harvard and MIT, wasn’t a surprise. The corporate giant has been threatening to leave Connecticut since its corporate taxes were raised as part of the 2016-17 budget. Massachusetts will give GE up to $120 million in incentives and grants and Boston will provide $25 million in property tax relief. They will also throw in another $5 million for an “innovation center” and GE is also eligible for $1 million to assist employees transferring from Connecticut.
That’s what you call a real sweetheart deal. Seems the only thing missing is the kitchen sink. What did Connecticut offer?
State officials have declined to say, but the Wall Street Journal is reporting Connecticut offered to purchase the $84 million Fairfield campus where GE has its headquarters and relocate the company to Stamford, where it would have had direct access to mass transit, interstate highways and walkable urban neighborhoods.
Seems a fair offer if true, but it wasn’t good enough. Maybe Malloy should have thrown in the sink?
The loss of GE is incalculable and affects a lot of small businesses throughout Connecticut. It also leaves Fairfield without its highest taxpayer — roughly $1.6 million annually.
No doubt they feel exactly the way folks down in Marcus Hook and Trainer felt at the prospect of being out of the refinery business forever. All that was at stake was a way of life.
The big question looming over Connecticut now is will the move by GE to Massachusetts start an avalanche of the state’s big businesses seeking a better business climate elsewhere, as some leaders fear?
The governor and lawmakers have received a wakeup call. It’s time to stop bickering and pointing fingers and come up with a tax structure and other incentives that will ensure corporations such as GE stay in place and provide the state with the revenue — and jobs — it needs.
Delaware County knows just how they feel.
When business moves away, sometimes it’s the pols who pay.
January 24, 2016
Op Ed article from the Delco Times
LAUREL: To the dozens of residents who turned out at a recent meeting in Middletown to be briefed on what Sunoco Logistics’ plans to build a second pipeline through their neighborhood will mean. What it likely means is an easement through their property.
DART: Everyone is excited about the prospect of new life for the old Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook as a potential energy hub for the Northeast, centered on byproducts from the state’s Marcellus Shale business. But no one should be deluded that it won’t come at a price. Just ask the folks in Middletown and other towns in the path of the proposed new pipeline.
February 6, 2016Old military term for criticism & praise.
WEST GOSHEN >> A senior independent living facility in West Goshen Township has been in the works since 2009.
Now, six-and-a-half years later, Traditions Development Corporation received unanimous approval from the Board of Supervisors Wednesday night.
The three-story, 114-unit independent living facility will feature approximately 21 studio apartments, 72 one-bedroom apartments and 22 two-bedroom apartments on its 6.6-acre property.
“The applicant intends to provide support services for the residents of the facility, such as daily lunch and dinner, weekly housekeeping, linen service, emergency call service, a security system for the building and local transportation to medical appointments and social activities and functions,” said John Jaros, counselor for Traditions. Advertisement
The facility will be located on Boot Road, between Route 202 and Greenhill Road and will share a driveway with the Goshen Fire Company, which sits on the corner of Boot and Greenhill roads.
There initially was some debate over the shared roadway, said board Chair Raymond Halvorsen, but all the conditions were met by Traditions.
However, Sunoco’s Mariner East project, which runs along the entire length of Boot Road in West Goshen, raised some alarming concerns for Goshen Fire Company.
“If (Sunoco is) out for their three-year project, which is what I’ve been told is their estimate for completion, and they’re digging up the front of our property and (Traditions is) digging up the back of our property, do I need to tell you from a community standpoint of an ambulance call response or a fire call response what that could mean as far as safety of residents?” said Robert Hall, president of Goshen Fire Company, during a meeting Jan. 13. “It would be catastrophic if both sides of that fire station were disrupted at the same time by two different elements of people, which nobody planned. This has kind of hit us as a surprise.”
Hall, on behalf of the fire company, asked for the board to delay the vote on Traditions at the Jan. 13 meeting to give time to discuss the situation with Sunoco.
“We wanted to make sure that during the construction process, either Sunoco or Traditions, that the fire company wasn’t impeded on behalf of our residents in any manner whatsoever,” Halvorsen said.
The board agreed and during the two weeks between meetings, Township Manager Casey LaLonde and Township Solicitor Kristin Camp met with representatives from both Sunoco and Sunoco’s land agent.
“(Sunoco) identified the method by which they are hoping to put the Mariner East line within easements along Boot Road is primarily going to be direction drilling, but for one segment, and the one segment happens to be along the frontage of what is now owned by the Traditions, as well as the Goshen Fire Company property,” Camp said at the Jan. 27 meeting. “That area they identified as where they are going to do the traditional excavation of a trench (and) they need to have a lay-down area.
“They believe that (they revised) to a position where they felt the fire company would be willing to grant them that temporary workspace and that they indicated to us that they would not be using any portion of the fire company property that would impede access by the fire trucks. Based on that representation, they did share with us the proposed plan that, upon review, looked as if fire trucks were going to be able to get in and out of both entrances on Boot Road, as well as Greenhill Road, and that they would not be interrupting the fire company’s ability to get in and out of the property.
With this new bit of information, the board felt they could approve the independent living facility by Traditions.
The answer from Sunoco also pleased Hall, though he did ask the board for a request moving forward as the two projects begin.
“If something does occur as this unfolds, we would just ask you to be mindful, as I think you are,” Hall said. “We value this township as one of our municipal partners (and) we feel it’s more of a kinship because of that. We recognize your commitment to the safety of the residents in this community. If something is anticipated, or something going on creates an obstruction where safety is now a concern, that you’ll assist us in any way, shape or form to stop whatever that is at the time until a suitable solution can be developed so that safety will always be No. 1.”
February 1, 2016Related story: Fire company denies having Traditions agreement-January 31, 2010
Sunoco Meets With Middletown Residents, Officials
MIDDLETOWN >> Representatives from Sunoco Logistics, at the request of the Middletown Township Council, held a meeting Thursday night to explain and answer questions about the company’s Mariner East 2 pipeline project.
The meeting was aimed at Middletown landowners and residents who will likely be affected by the project’s construction, but residents from Edgmont and Thornbury – townships where the pipelines will also be running through – were in attendance as well, with the promise of follow-up meetings in their own respective townships.
The project is designed to deliver natural gas liquids (NGLs), which Sunoco Logistics’ Community Relations Representative Don Zoladkiewicz classified at the meeting as propane, ethane and butane, from Western Pennsylvania’s Marcellus and Utica shale areas into the Marcus Hook refinery for redistribution.
The first phase of the project, Mariner East 1, refurbished a pre-existing pipeline system that was completed and put into service at the end of this past year. The second phase, Mariner East 2, comes with the installation of a 20-inch and 16-inch pipeline, the latter of which Zoladkiewicz said is dubbed Mariner East 2X. Advertisement
Those pipelines are intended to expand the amount of NGLs coming into Marcus Hook, and extend a greater reach that goes outside of Pennsylvania to also make use of shale areas in eastern Ohio and West Virginia.
Making use of a more locally focused map on a projector screen, with printed copies also available to everyone in attendance, Zoladkiewicz traced the pipelines’ route, explaining that it would run through Chester County, then into Thornbury and Edgmont before going down through Middletown and Aston on its way to Marcus Hook.
Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East Project Manager Matt Gordon then noted that the sections of the pipelines’ route were marked in either blue or red. Gordon said that the red sections signify more traditional means of installation, where workers will have to dig out the area along the route in order to install the pipe.
Gordon added that the blue sections will make use of “horizontal directional drilling,” where a hole will be drilled at each end of the route section, to allow the pipe to be pulled through underground. He also said that the method is used for installation underneath waterways, wetlands and roads, and carries less environmental and local impact during construction.
Safety and the regulations the pipelines have to meet were also a point that Gordon emphasized. He said the pipelines will have to undergo testing at “significantly higher pressures than it’s ever going to see,” before they’re put into service.
Gordon also said the pipeline route will have patrols by ground and by air to look out for any potential hazards once they’re installed, markings along the route to let people know where pipeline is, and a control center to monitor both pipelines’ pressure at all times.
“I can bore you for hours with the science,” he said, summing up the layout of the control center as computers monitoring the pipelines, with people keeping track as well, should the computers fail.
“Sunoco has been around a long time,” Gordon said. “We know what we’re doing. It’s our business, and we do it safely. We don’t take this lightly.”
Sunoco is investing $3 billion into the project, and construction is expected to get underway within the first half of this year.
Many that were in attendance Thursday night, however, still had concerns.
Margaret deMarteleire, a Middletown resident for the last two years, told the crowd during a Q&A session that she is currently involved in a lawsuit against Sunoco over right-of-way easements and eminent domain for the Mariner East 2 project.
Her property sits along Pennell Road, and she said her easement is more than 100 years old and only covers two petroleum pipelines that already run through, not two new ones. deMarteleire also urged every landowner involved to read their easements if they have one, and go over it with a lawyer.
“Don’t we get to say anything about our own land?” deMarteleire asked. “It’s 75 feet of our own backyard dug out.”
Zoladkiewicz said prior to the Q&A that easements within the township were just under 80-percent acquired, but acknowledged that many are likely decades old, and that Sunoco would renegotiate them if necessary.
Andrew Fikse, who lives long Valley Road, asked about easements as well. He said he has been pressured by land agents who have sent him mail, emails and texts saying he has until Jan. 31 to sign.
Shannon Gwin, the Right-of-Way Project Manager for Sunoco via Percheron Field Services, said that Sunoco has to take in all information on easements by a certain point, but that it doesn’t necessarily mean that talks stop there.
“We are out of time to negotiate those things in the field,” Gwin said. “We have to move forward.”
Fiske questioned the project’s horizontal drilling method too, asking what it would be like running under his property.
Gordon said that “unless something goes, you’re not even going to know it’s there,” and that inspection on properties before, during and after construction can be done on properties to check for any damage during the process.
“If we damage something, we have to fix it,” Gordon said.
Stu Eli had additional safety concerns about construction, how the pipelines will be marked, and potential leaks, noting the fact that he has small children.
Gordon said that during construction there usually isn’t risk to anyone outside of the work area, but the area would be fenced off if there is a concern of anyone looking in or getting too close. He reiterated that the markers would indicate where the pipelines are, along with the control center to keep track of the pipelines, and mentioned that emergency responders would be on hand in the event of any potential leaks.
After the meeting closed, Eric Friedman, a resident of Thornbury Township and the president of the Andover Homeowners’ Association, still had his worries about the project.
Friedman said Sunoco asked the homeowners’ association for permission to survey the land. It didn’t deny the company, he said, but didn’t give Sunoco any more than its already granted authority. He added that there has also been little in the way of easement negotiations.
“There are 30 home sites,” he said. “We’re all affected by it.”
January 31, 2016
Brief filed in pump station dispute
A Lebanon County citizens group leading opposition to a pump station by natural gas liquids pipeline developer Sunoco Logistics said Thursday it filed a brief designed to continue its fight in the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas.
The West Cornwall Township pump station is one of 18 in Pennsylvania designed to support Sunoco’s existing Mariner East 1 pipeline and planned Mariner East 2 pipeline. Its construction was first challenged in 2014 in front of the West Cornwall Zoning Hearing Board by Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County, which claimed Sunoco did not have proper zoning permits.
After a Public Utility Commission ruling regarding Sunoco’s public utility status, Sunoco claimed it no longer needed local zoning permits except for an enclosure surrounding the pump station, according to Pam Bishop of Concerned Citizens. When Concerned Citizens challenged that view, the West Cornwall Zoning Hearing Board ruled they did not have standing because the group’s residents were not directly impacted by the enclosure.
A brief in support of its appeal was filed this week on behalf of three township residents and Concerned Citizens, according to a news release from the group. It argues that citizens were wrongly denied standing and that Sunoco has not established that it is a public utility corporation or subject to zoning exemption.
Some West Cornwall Township officials have criticized the group for costing the township money for stenographer fees, advertising fees, attorney fees and hall rentals throughout the lengthy appeals process.
January 29, 2016
You would have thought that the last local government election cleanout got the message across. Apparently someone either has a short memory, or is operating from a protected position. Maybe the thought is something along the lines of: the elections are over, and maybe the residents have short memories? This was discussed and resolved on 2013. Perhaps "that was then, this is now"?
Recently, some documents surfaced (by means of a FOI request) that reveal Boot Road is again under consideration for widening. It appears they're considering re-striping Boot Road to be a four lane highway between at least Greenhill Road to Wilson Drive.
Also see archives - link
At a minimum, residents will permanently lose both the mini-shoulder on the southeast side, and the turning lane in the center.
Who's bearing the traffic risk to residents & loss? Hint: Not West Goshen Township.
Actionable information - attend the Board meetings, ask questions. According to the township website, the Board of Supervisor meeting dates are the following Wednesdays:
January 26, 2016
Apparently Sunoco did create a job somewhere, and we found it. Here's the ad:
So, if you happen to be moving to New Mexico & have your CDL, there might be a job opening waiting.
Naturally, it's never Sunoco's fault that jobs are disappearing from southeastern Pennsylvania. Apparently they've succeeded at convincing themselves of their own infallibility.
— Letter to the Editor —
I'm a landowner in the path of Sunoco's Mariner East pipeline.
In his recent letter, James Kunz of the Operating Engineers Local 66 wrote that companies like Sunoco should be able to take private land through eminent domain (“Eminent domain a necessity,” Pamela Witmer, with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, said shale development is good for jobs and the economy, and that pipelines were a priority for the Public Utility Commission (“Pa.'s promising energy future” ).
I worked for Peoples Gas for 40 years. I know infrastructure is needed. I know oil prices are cyclical. Prices dropped and a lot of jobs were lost — something Witmer didn't say. What happens when oil prices go up and the gas glut is gone?
I've owned my farm since 1973. It's supposed to be my legacy. Sunoco's plans cut it and my trailer park in half, orphaning acreage. I've lost tenants. Boring could damage the park road and septic system.
I'm not anti-development, but it's a perversion of the eminent domain process to allow Sunoco to take my land this way and use it to export for profit. Doing so would prevent my ability to negotiate, and the PUC is cheering it on.
Jan. 4, 2016
Sunoco Logistics is about to put into operation its Mariner East 1 pipeline, which will bring ethane from the Marcellus Shale to the Marcus Hook refinery and shipyard in Philadelphia.
“We are beginning to transport ethane this month on Mariner East 1, with the first ethane ships to be loaded in February,” said Sunoco Logistics spokesman Jeff Shields.
That’s good news for Range Resources Corp., the Fort Worth, Texas-based natural gas producer that has major operations in southwestern Pennsylvania and a contract with Sunoco Logistics.
Range’s contract with Sunoco Logistics (NYSE: SXL) includes 20,000 barrels of ethane and 20,000 barrels of propane daily between here and Marcus Hook, as well as storage there.
In an investor presentation Jan. 6, Range (NYSE: RRC) said it should see a jump in cash flow of about $90 million a year once the Mariner East 1, Mariner West and ATEX pipelines are up and running.
Jan 19, 2016
Sunoco Logistics Partners, LP fined $95,000 over drilling fluid spills in Pennsylvania during the construction the Mariner East pipeline
Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. has agreed to pay about $95,400 to settle a civil complaint arising from accidental drilling-fluid spills.
The spills occurred in Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland counties last year during boring operations associated with construction of the Mariner East pipeline, according to a consent decree with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
More than 1,000 gallons of fluid spilled in six separate instances, the Department said. The company also failed to implement proper erosion and sedimentation controls at certain project sites, .
Mariner East runs from Delmont, Westmoreland County, to the Marcus Hook facility near Philadelphia. Sunoco is lengthening the pipeline, from Delmont to Houston, Washington County. The pipeline carries propane and ethane east to the facility.
While issues Sunoco Logistics (NYSE: SXL) deals with the fallout connected to thee Mariner East pipeline, the Philadelphia-based owner and operator of oil terminals and pipelines recently said it is working to build a second pipeline in the second phase of its project, Mariner East II.
The company declined comment.
June 29, 2015
PHILADELPHIA - Pipelines are the topic of the day at Shale Insight, a convention for the natural gas industry.
Legacy gas production across Pennsylvania has tanked and the number of new wells being drilled is at its lowest level since 2009 after oil and gas prices dropped significantly over the last year. The low prices have lead to a glut of natural gas in the region; there's more natural gas available than can be used locally. Industry representatives are thus pushing for pipeline projects to send natural gas to other markets.
"The interesting thing is that we all make the same stuff," said Joe Colella, a senior vice president with Sunoco Logistics, speaking about natural gas and oil producers at an introductory panel in front of hundreds of conference attendees. "What matters is how do you get it to market most competitively?"
Gas producers in Pennsylvania would be significantly helped by new and improved pipelines in the region. But that's going to involve a long process of building an infrastructure to take natural gas from Pennsylvania's shale fields to international markets.
That buildout could take 20 years, said UGI Corporation's CEO, John Walsh. But the investment is worth it, he said, providing "continuous access to low-cost energy."
Sunoco announced a $2.5 billion pipeline project last year, called Mariner East 2, that will take natural gas liquids from southwestern Pennsylvania to the century-old Marcus Hook refinery site about 20 miles southwest of Philadelphia. The new pipeline would have a capacity of 275,000 barrels per day.
The Mariner East 1 project built to ship crude oil, it has a capacity of about 70,000 barrels per day and has been shipping propane since December. By the end of the year, that line is expected to begin shipping natural gas liquids from the Marcellus.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission listed 10 pending pipeline projects in Pennsylvania as of July.
Held in Philadelphia this year, the Shale Insight conference is convened by the Marcellus Shale Coalition for companies small and large who are drilling and exporting natural gas.
The conference lasts through Thursday afternoon.
Sept 16, 2015
Sounds like there's trouble behind the scenes at Sunoco.
The fight continues in Blair county, the first article below.
Sunoco's share prices are at a 52 week low, and apparently the ambulance-chasers are circling. Yahoo's Cramer warns investors that the market's apparently had enough.
What can we say, besides...enjoy.
January 14, 2016
By Marielena Balouris | email@example.com
Published 01/13 2016 11:49PM Updated 01/13 2016 11:49PM
Blair Township, Blair County, Pa.
A natural gas liquid pipeline will soon stretch across our state, running right through our region.
The Mariner Pipeline will be coming through Cambria, Blair and Huntingdon Counties. It's a project run by Sunoco Logistics -- and their goal is to start working on the pipeline in the spring. This pipeline will transport methane, propane, ethane and butane gases -- under pressure as liquids. But more pressure is coming from affected residents.
The Mariner Pipeline is a state-wide pipeline, stretching from the Ohio border to the refinery site in Philadelphia. In Blair County, it goes directly through an undeveloped portion of the Pleasant View housing neighborhood in Duncansville.
Jeff Shields, Communications Manager for Sunoco Logistics, said, "We understand neighbors don't want it to be a parade of heavy equipment through the neighborhood and we're trying to be sensitive to that."
As part of that understanding, Sunoco Logistics worked with the Blair Township Supervisors to select a different access route to the pipeline -- keeping trucks off of Hamer Drive, which is within the neighborhood. Instead, they will be coming off of Route 36. But even with a different access route, neighbors will still be seeing some construction vehicles, and will probably hear noises from the installation of the pipeline.
Robin Pack, who lives on Hamer Drive in Duncansville, said, "One of the reasons why we picked this neighborhood was for the quietness of it, and I don't think it's going to happen if that's being put in. So not a real big fan of it right now, maybe if I get to know more about it."
Even though neighbors are concerned, the project is still moving forward.
Richard Lasek, Chairman of Blair Township Supervisors, said, "I don't think the impact is going to be that great, I'm listening to what Sunoco has to say, I'm listening to what the community has to say and I'm trying to find some sort of amicable resolution understanding that our impact as a township is fairly minimal on a project that's mostly licensed at the state and federal levels."
On Tuesday night the Blair Township Supervisors held an informational meeting where Sunoco Logistics explained the project. A main concern of people: the valve site. These valves are placed every eight miles along the pipeline -- and Shields says that's to keep everyone safe.
"It segments off a line so you can shut it down in case of an emergency. So we put these valves periodically along the line," said Shields.
If they sense any changes, they can shut that specific section of the pipeline down and make the necessary adjustments.
As Shields said, the valves are placed every 8 miles as a safety measure. He also said that pipelines are the safest way to transport petroleum products. Sunoco Logistics is using 75,000 tons of American-made steel for the project. They haven't started construction yet, but will be starting to cut down trees for the entire length of the pipeline within in the next month.
January 13, 2016
Written on Wed, 01/13/2016 - 1:59pm
By Shiri Gupta
Sunoco Logistics Partners (NYSE:SXL) traded today at a new 52-week low of $19.81. This new low was reached on below average trading volume as 589,000 shares traded hands, while the average 30-day volume is approximately 2.1 million shares.
Sunoco Logistics Partners (NYSE:SXL) has potential upside of 99.7% based on a current price of $19.84 and analysts' consensus price target of $39.62. The stock should find initial resistance at its 50-day moving average (MA) of $26.28 and further resistance at its 200-day MA of $33.82.
Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. acquires, owns, and operates a group of refined product and crude oil pipelines and terminal facilities.
Sunoco Logistics Partners share prices have moved between a 52-week high of $46.72 and the current low of $19.81 and are currently at $19.84 per share. Over the last five market days, the 200-day moving average (MA) has gone down 0.9% while the 50-day MA has declined 1.3%.
SmarTrend is monitoring the recent change of momentum in Sunoco Logistics Partners. Please refer to our Company Overview for the results of our proprietary technical indicators that have been scanning shares of Sunoco Logistics Partners in search of a potential trend change.
January 13, 2016
If this article applies to you, please read the following advertisement — Ed
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January 14, 2016
Posted: Sunday, January 10, 2016, 3:01 AM
Next month, the first shipment of Marcellus Shale ethane will set sail from Marcus Hook to Norway, launching a new export trade for the Delaware River port that is being hailed as a boost to the gas industry, local maritime interests, and European manufacturing.
Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. has committed $2.5 billion to the Mariner East pipeline network to transport ethane and other liquid fuels, such as propane and butane, across Pennsylvania from the Marcellus fields to that Marcus Hook terminal, erected on the site of a former oil refinery. The 300-mile system, now undergoing testing, will begin its first deliveries of ethane in the coming weeks, Sunoco says.
European chemical producer INEOS has spent $1 billion to complete the link between Marcus Hook and Europe by creating a "virtual pipeline" of 575-foot tankers to ferry ethane across the Atlantic to petrochemical plants in Norway and Scotland.
"The start of ethane shipments on Mariner East 1 represents the next phase of the project and a re-orienting of the Marcellus and Utica Shale resources to benefit Pennsylvanians directly, through local use, while strengthening the state's economy through access to other markets, both domestic and international," Sunoco Logistics spokesman Jeffrey P. Shields said.
Natural-gas liquids are to petrochemical manufacturing as wheat is to baking. In that sense, the Marcellus and Utica Shales in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio are metaphorical amber waves of ethane.
"We have seen how U.S. shale gas revolutionized U.S. manufacturing, and we believe these huge ships will help do the same for Europe," British industrialist Jim Ratcliffe, founder and chairman of INEOS, said when the first two of eight tankers were launched in July.
The Chinese-built INEOS tankers will load up at Marcus Hook and deliver cargo to plants whose current ethane supplies are dwindling from depleted North Sea oil wells. The INEOS plant in Grangemouth, Scotland's largest industrial complex, now operates at half-capacity.
A second, parallel Mariner East pipeline, set to be built this year and opposed by many landowners along the route, would quadruple the capacity of Marcellus liquids moving to Marcus Hook. When the pipeline is ready, European petrochemical maker Borealis is poised to ship ethane to a Swedish plant.
Eventually, maritime officials project, ethane may add up to 100 more tankers a year to Delaware River traffic.
Dennis Rochford, president of the Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay, also anticipates that the availability of new Marcellus energy supplies could trigger a "rebirth of manufacturing in the region that would contribute to a growth in blue-collar jobs not directly related to the port."
INEOS sees the future of petrochemicals in hydraulic fracturing, the method that involves the high-pressure injection of water and chemicals into shale formations to release oil and gas. The company is invested in developing shale wells in Britain, which have aroused fierce environmental opposition.
For INEOS, the tankers arriving from Marcus Hook bringing salvation for its Scottish plant will serve as aquatic billboards for fracking. The company has emblazoned the ships' hulls with massive slogans: "Shale Gas for Manufacturing" and "Shale Gas for Chemicals."
"They make very clear statements as to the benefits of shale," said INEOS spokesman Richard Longden.
One of several hydrocarbon molecules that make up natural gas, ethane is converted or "cracked" into ethylene at huge industrial complexes. Ethylene is a foundational ingredient in many consumer products, including antifreeze and plastics.
Ethane is produced in such abundance from some shale wells in Appalachia that gas producers have scurried for more than five years to develop markets for it.
For Sunoco Logistics, ethane presented an opportunity. So the company, acquired in 2012 by pipeline giant Energy Transfer Partners, repurposed two underused fuel pipelines to carry natural-gas liquids.
One pipeline, called Mariner West, now exports ethane from Pennsylvania through Ohio and Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario, where Nova Chemicals converted a plant to consume Marcellus ethane. Mariner East, the second ethane route, is an 8-inch-diameter pipeline stretching from the Pittsburgh area to Marcus Hook. It once delivered gasoline and diesel refined at Marcus Hook to Western Pennsylvania.
Last year, Sunoco Logistics began shipping propane through the Mariner East line. The added infrastructure it needed to transport and store ethane is now completed, including a 300,000-barrel above-ground insulated tank in Marcus Hook supercooled to minus-130 degrees to maintain the ethane in a liquid state.
While Pennsylvania's business and political establishment have lined up behind the pipeline project, citing the economic benefits, environmentalists have opposed it, saying the pipeline will enable more drilling for fossil fuels and that it and its products will increase greenhouse-gas emissions.
Many landowners along the Mariner East pipeline route also object. The pipeline across Pennsylvania was constructed in the 1930s, but some of the rural areas it crosses are now suburban developments. Now, Sunoco Logistics is adding one and maybe a second 24-inch-
diameter pipeline next to the first Mariner East pipeline, which will require it to expand its right-of-way. It recently opened an office in Chester County to persuade reluctant landowners there and in Delaware County to sign easements.
The Mariner East 2 project would expand the capacity to move Marcellus liquids from 70,000 barrels a day to 340,000 barrels. Though much of the material will be exported, some propane is distributed to local markets. And Sunoco says it also is developing a plant in Marcus Hook that would convert propane into propylene, also a building-block commodity in the petrochemical industry.
Sunoco Logistics CEO Michael J. Hennigan acknowledged to investors in November that the propane plant has taken longer to develop than expected because of a worldwide collapse of commodity and oil prices.
"We're disappointed that the commodity environment is kind of slowing things down for a little bit," he said, "but we're bullish that that's going to turn around."
January 10, 2016
— What can happen when a homeowner has a fair chance of winning —
In 1997, Donald Trump’s plan to expand his Atlantic City casino was frustrated by one woman: Vera Coking. And nearly 20 years later, opponents of the GOP frontrunner are hopeful that the memory of that episode can trip up the mogul once again.
Coking, an outspoken, tough New Jersey widow who wore oversized rhinestone-studded glasses and eccentric outfits, owned a three-story house on the boardwalk that was in the way of Trump’s plans to expand the Trump Plaza casino. And she didn’t want to sell it to him, despite his ever-increasing offers.
Trump, who described Coking’s home as “terrible,” enlisted New Jersey’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to take the property by “eminent domain” at its market price, allowing him to build something more “beautiful” in its place.
“Cities have the right to condemn for the good of the city,” Trump told ABC News. “Everybody coming into Atlantic City sees this terrible house instead of staring at beautiful fountains and beautiful other things that would be good.” Trump wanted to build a limousine parking lot — not fountains — on Coking’s lot.
Coking and two business owners next door faced off against Trump and the state of New Jersey in court — and won. The case put the issue of private corporations benefiting from eminent domain on the map.
Now, Trump’s opponents hope to use this episode to paint a picture of him as a corporate fat cat wielding government power to get his way against the kind of blue-collar voters who are the base of his support. The Club for Growth, a mainstream conservative lobby, debuted a television ad in Iowa in October saying Trump supports “massive new power to take private property and give it to corporations.” In New Hampshire, an anti-Trump super-PAC called Make America Awesome began running radio ads last week slamming Trump on this issue, and on controversial comments he’s made about employing immigrant workers in his hotels and that wages are too high in America. “He’s even used government power to seize private property — and brags about it,” the narrator says.
It’s unclear if this property rights issue is one that will resonate with GOP primary voters in general or in New Hampshire specifically. Trump is currently leading the Republican field in the early-voting state by more than 10 points. But until now, Trump’s rivals haven’t used the issue against him much.
David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, said he believes no group or campaign has yet harnessed the power of this story to attack Trump among conservatives who deeply value personal property rights.
“I still think if you put an ad out in Iowa and say he used the government to take away a widow’s house so he could build a parking lot for limousines, that would be effective,” Boaz said.
Public polling after a 2005 Supreme Court decision upholding the government’s right to seize private property for private development showed that more than 80 percent of Americans disapproved of the decision. Trump, when asked about that decision in 2005, said he backed it “100 percent.”
But conservatives haven’t rallied around eminent domain as an issue, limiting its impact in a primary campaign dominated by issues of immigration and national security.
“Democrats have made overturning [the Supreme Court decision] Citizens United an issue, but I don’t think eminent domain has had that same impact,” Boaz said.
Chris Ryan, a New Hampshire WKXL radio talk show host who has covered the past four presidential primaries, said eminent domain is a significant issue in New Hampshire, particularly in the northern part of the state, because of two proposed energy projects, including the Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline. Homeowners in the area are starting to worry about whether the projects will affect their property. New Hampshire Republicans have a healthy streak of libertarianism as well, which might dispose them to care about private property issues.
But Ryan said he believes an attack on Trump’s statements about wages being too high would be more effective at eroding the candidate’s support than focusing on eminent domain.
“Do I think it will resonate with some people? Yes. But I don’t think it’s a silver bullet,” Ryan said.
The woman who could put a face to the story and potentially make people care about it, Vera Coking, appears to be unavailable. She left the house for which she fought so hard a decade ago to move closer to family across the country, according to her former attorney Dana Berliner. Coking’s house was put up for auction, and was sold to billionaire Carl Icahn for $583,000 and eventually demolished in 2014. Coking’s co-defendants in the suit, the owners of a family restaurant and an owner of a jewelry store, eventually sold to Trump. (“I have no disagreement with Trump. He’s been very good to me,” Vincent Sabatini, the restaurant owner, told an Atlantic City newspaper.)
“To be in any eminent domain case you’ve got to know your mind, and she knew her mind,” recalled Berliner, who works for the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit that fights eminent domain cases. “That was the house that she wanted to stay in until she couldn’t stay there any longer.”
Coking, an elderly woman who coquettishly refused to disclose her age to her attorney, was offended that Trump, as part of his public relations offensive against her, had called the house she had lived in for nearly 40 years “terrible.”
“I mean the house was not in fabulous repair, but it was home,” Berliner said.
The dispute — which pitted three New Jersey regular-Joe heroes against a real estate tycoon — captured the public imagination at the time. The comic strip “Doonesbury” lampooned Trump in several installments as a bully who was frustrated by the small-town holdouts.
“This was the case that brought the problem of eminent domain abuse into the public spotlight,” Berliner said.
The case was unusual in that Trump’s company intervened in the suit, instead of just allowing the state of New Jersey to handle the property dispute. Generally, private companies allow the state to handle eminent domain suits and remain in the background, according to Berliner.
A Trump campaign spokeswoman did not return request for comment, but the candidate has been forced to defend his record on the issue several times since throwing his hat into the ring.
As he told Fox News in October: “If somebody has a property in the middle of a 7,000-job factory, as an example, that’s going to move into the town, but they need this one corner of this property, and it’s going to provide 7,000 jobs in a community that’s dying, of which we have many in this country, OK? I am for that.”
January 9, 2016
Saudi Arabia is running out of money.
While the world's attention is focused on Saudi Arabia's latest flare up with Iran, many Saudis are concerned about the "economic bomb" at home. The government is slashing a plethora of perks for its citizens.
The cash crunch is so dire that the Saudi government just hiked the price of gasoline by 50%. Saudis lined up at gas stations Monday to fill up before the higher prices kicked in.
"They have announced cutbacks in subsidies that will hurt every single Saudi in their pocketbook," says Robert Jordan, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and author of "Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11."
Gas used to cost a mere 16 cents a liter in Saudi Arabia, one of the cheapest prices in the world. Many Saudis drive large SUVs and "have no concept of saving gas," says Jordan.
Gas price hike is just the beginning
The gas hike is just the beginning. Water and electricity prices are also going up, and the government is scaling back spending on roads, buildings and other infrastructure.
Those cuts might sound normal for any government that is running low on cash. But it's especially problematic in Saudi Arabia because the vast majority of Saudis work in the public sector.
About 75% of the Saudi government's budget comes from oil. The price of oil has crashed from over $100 a barrel in 2014 to around $36 currently. Most experts don't expect a rebound anytime soon.
The Saudi government used its vast oil wealth to provide generous benefits to its citizens. When the Arab Spring rocked the Middle East in 2011, the Saudi king spent even more in an effort to subdue any discontent in the country.
The perks Saudis receive:
Here are some of the perks Saudis receive:
Saudi Arabia may have to start taxing its people
Now Saudi Arabia can't pay for all those benefits. It ran a deficit of nearly $100 billion last year and expects something similar this year, if not worse.
The International Monetary Fund recently predicted that Saudi Arabia could run out of cash in five years or less if oil stays below $50 a barrel.
"The Saudis have used their economic power to buy off their population," says Jordan, who is currently serving as diplomat in residence at Southern Methodist University.
He predicts Saudi Arabia may even have to start collecting an income tax or sales tax.
"Part of the leverage the regime has had on their people is that they don't impose taxes and therefore people don't expect representation," Jordan says. "But once they pay taxes, you're likely to see an increase in political unrest."
Unemployment is already high in the country. Official statistics put it at about 12%, but experts say it's likely much higher since many Saudis don't even look for work.
Saudis not cutting back on defense
Members of the royal family have enjoyed lavish expense accounts for years. Those were detailed in U.S. embassy cables leaked on WikiLeaks, including a sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll lifestyle of many young royals. It's unclear how much those will be scaled back since many of the royal perks are off budget.
Jordan says the execution of 47 Saudi prisoners over the weekend is a warning sign that the Saudis will not tolerate dissent.
And there's one area the Saudis are not cutting: defense spending. The country currently spends 11% of its GDP on defense, the highest in the world. It intends to spend even more this year.
CNN's John Defterios and Ivana Kottasova contributed to this article.Ed note: to convert from liter to gallon, multiply liters times 3.78. So, 24 cents per liter is 90 cents per gallon. It also appears the article quoted the gasoline price in US Dollars since it's pretty close to this.
January 9, 2016
January 8, 2016 [OPIS] - Sunoco Logistics' Marcus Hook industrial complex south of Philadelphia along the Delaware River will be loading its first ethane cargo for exports in February, a company spokesman told OPIS on Thursday.
Sunoco Logistics expects to begin the first ethane supply movements to Marcus Hook from the Marcellus Shale region via the company's Marine East 1 pipeline in January, he said.
The company began the commissioning sequence for ethane startup in December, the spokesman said.
Natural gas liquids exports out of the U.S. East Coast are expected to increase significantly, with ethane to be exported out of Sunoco Logistics' Marcus Hook terminal for the first time, industry sources told OPIS in early December 2015.
Besides first export of ethane, the Marcus Hook terminal will be able to load NGL barrels on large LPG tankers, Very Large Gas Carriers. A VLGC is able to transport up to 83,000 cubic meters of NGL. This East Coast export outlet will help relieve the U.S. NGL supply glut, and the VLGCs loaded at Marcus Hook are expected to deliver NGL to Asia.
Currently, the Marcus Hook terminal is loading only Handysize LPG carriers, which have a capacity of 21,000 cbm. It could also possibly load the medium-size LPG carriers with a capacity of 40,000 cbm.
The terminal in Pennsylvania, which has an NGL storage capacity of 2 million bbl for propane and butane in underground caverns, began to export NGL about two years ago. The terminal had first received NGL in limited volumes via unit trains, but the west-east supplies increased substantially following the startup of Mariner East 1 at the end of 2014. However, international sales are limited to propane for now.
Sunoco Logistics will complete a project to increase the NGL loading rate to a maximum of 24,000 bph for VLGC as well as an ethane storage facility to enable ethane export in about one month's time. This will unlock the full NGL export potential at Marcus Hook.
The Marcus Hook terminal receives NGL from the Marcellus Shale region via pipeline, marine vessel, truck and rail. The Mariner East 1 pipeline is rated at about 70,000 b/d, but the current flow rate is significantly below the maximum capacity due to the inability to export ethane.
However, the pipeline is expected to ramp up its NGL delivery to near maximum to facilitate the first ethane export. The total NGL export volume out of Marcus Hook will be well above 70,000 b/d due to additional deliveries via other modes of transportation.
The two main NGL exporters at Marcus Hook are MarkWest and Range Resources, which are committed shippers on Mariner East 1. It is noted Marathon Petroleum is aiming to take over MarkWest.
Besides acquiring MarkWest, Marathon has been eyeing other potential NGL export expansions on the East Coast, but details are sketchy, sources said.
Marcus Hook is one of two export outlets on the East Coast, with the other being DCP's Chesapeake terminal in Virginia.
The East Coast exported about 1.766 million bbl of propane in September, the highest monthly volume ever, according to the Energy Information Administration. However, that export volume dropped to 1.058 million bbl in October.
In the longer run, East Coast NGL exports are expected to soar in 2017 when Sunoco Logistics completes and starts up its Mariner East 2 Expansion Project.
Sunoco Logistics plans to add a second natural gas liquids pipeline to its current Marine East 2 project, raising the total delivery capacity from western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and eastern Ohio to Philadelphia to a potential 675,000 b/d, including the original Mariner East line that is now in service.
The first NGL line, Mariner East 1, which was a refined products line converted to NGL service, is to deliver up to 70,000 b/d of propane and ethane.
The total NGL delivery capacity for the Northeast is significantly higher than the original plan for 275,000-b/d of new capacity on the Mariner East 2 line.
Meanwhile, Sunoco Logistics will have a total 800,000 bbl of new above-ground storage tank capacity at Marcus Hook. The cyrogenic ethane tank will have a 300,000-bbl capacity, and the propane tank will have 500,000 bbl. These tanks will facilitate the first ethane export and higher NGL exports.
Sunoco Logistics is building four new additional storage tanks for ethane, propane and butane at Marcus Hook to accommodate the extra NGL delivery volume on Mariner East 2, the company spokesman said.
However, the company has not publicized the storage capacity for the four new tanks yet, he said.
January 8, 2016
ne of the charms of living in Pennsylvania is enjoying the accelerated rate of corrosion from road salt. Buried pipelines face corrosion as well, but face a significant challenge - they're mostly inaccessible and frequently buried. The solution is clever, but can create some significant side effects.
If you've ever visited an older, full-service jeweler, you might have noticed a non-metallic tank with electrical connections submerged in it. This device coats metallic surfaces with precious metal by forcing direct electrical current through a solution containing the precious metal. The precious metal is then deposited on the desired item, typically jewelry. Interestingly, reversing current flow also reverses the direction of metal deposit.
Underground pipes and similar structures use this process to slow the corrosion process. In this instance, it's called "cathodic protection". It's been in use since at least the 1920s1. It's also the bane of farmers and cattle owners, since it can wreak havoc on farms. Cathodic current can cause metallic objects to become electrified, cause or increase corrosion in metallic structures (such as silos) and more. If you have metallic structures near cathodic current, you might experience accelerated deterioration. This includes, but isn't limited to: metal structures and anchors, ground rods, buried wires and underground pipes.
So, if you're considering an easement agreement, you might want to consider the "interaction" aspect to avoid expensive well and sewer line repairs every few years. No doubt the townships & counties are well aware of the increased pipe attrition yet to come.
As far as crop enhancement, that's still under investigation.2
If you'd like to learn more about cathodic current, please see:http://www.corrosionsource.com/FreeContent/1/Cathodic+Protection
1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathodic_protection and also http://corrosion-doctors.org/Corrosion-History/CP-History.htm
January 8, 2016
Sunoco Update - Legal representation
Lynda Farrell (email link)
You are all being blind copied for privacy. The bulk of you are in Chester County. Please share with others who may need this information.
Carolyn Elefant is copied above. She will be available to speak to anyone needing representation on Monday, January 11th. Her phone # is (202) 297-6100.
Carolyn is able to work with individuals or groups and attend meetings with anyone planning to meet with Sunoco in Eagleview.
Please remember that you too have huge leverage in these negotiations. If Sunoco cannot get their pipes thru Chester County, they cannot get to Marcus Hook - their export site - and the projects have no purpose. Chester County has been a profound challenge to Sunoco. Hence the hard tactics, but that should not force anyone to give up their rights.
Letters threatening Eminent Domain escalated in November and December. That’s a strategy this Industry uses - knowing people are frankly feeling more vulnerable during this time of family and friends. It’s a unnecessary and nasty tactic. Even if you are told they will start to take your land next week, there are several factors you should consider:
The legal process typically takes months - during which time Sunoco is going to try to get you to sign the easement they’ve given you anyway.
We’re also looking for the numbers and locations (preferably names of landowners) who have been given easements that require a 3 year agreement. This could be a very important tool in helping us help you.
Please be in touch with any questions
Wishing you all a more peaceful New Year, abundant good health and happiness,
Lynda K. Farrell
Editor's note - please direct any questions to Ms. Farrell, her contact information appears above.
January 7, 2016
Sunoco Logistics Partners has opened a new office in Chester County in a bid to connect with residents as it struggles to acquire land rights for its latest pipeline project.
The energy company opened the office last month in Uwchlan Township to address questions from Chester and Delaware County residents reluctant to grant easements for a pipeline to cross their property.
The site is the only satellite office along the 350-mile Mariner East 2 pipeline route, a Sunoco spokesman said. The line starts in Ohio and is designed to deliver liquid fuels, like propane, produced from Appalachian shale wells to Sunoco's new terminal at a former refinery site in Marcus Hook.
The project, for which construction is scheduled to start this year, represents an investment of more than $2 billion, Sunoco says.
Obtaining land rights has been difficult for the company in Chester and Delaware Counties, partly because "you've got so many valuable properties so close together," said Rich Raiders, a lawyer for affected landowners.
The Philadelphia-area counties are the most densely populated area on the pipeline route, which mostly crosses open country in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.
Raiders said Sunoco's stepped-up outreach is an acknowledgment that obtaining easements there is "more complicated than land rights in open fields and farms."
The pipeline would largely follow the path of the existing Mariner East pipeline, which Sunoco Logistics put into service last year to transport natural gas liquids, which include propane, ethane, butane and natural gasoline, to Marcus Hook. The company needs to expand its existing right-of-way to accommodate the new pipeline.
Sunoco says that as a public utility, it has the right to acquire easements by eminent domain, but it would need to assert those claims in court for each landowner who resists signing an agreement. Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields declined to disclose how many landowners have refused to sign.
"To me, opening the office is just an effort to perhaps persuade people who can be persuaded," said Eric Friedman, who lives along the pipeline's path in Thornbury Township, Delaware County. "Some people won't be."
Sunoco plans to start construction in the first half of this year on sections of the pipeline where it has obtained property rights. It plans to finish by the end of 2016.
Opposition to the Mariner East project is strong in Chester County, where residents express concerns about the dangers of a buried pipeline near their homes and its impact on property values. "The people in this county do stand up and will fight for the land and for the environmental and land-preservation values that are important to the citizens," State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D., Chester) said.
He said Sunoco needs to address residents' concerns through its actions as the project continues.
Sunoco's satellite office will give landowners an opportunity to gather their thoughts and legal representation, "and go to a place and not be directly put on the spot with someone coming to their homes," said Carrie Conwell, environmental planner for the Chester County Planning Commission.
Land agents will work in the office by appointment only on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The office is in Suite 300 of the Eagleview Corporate Center.
Since the office opened two weeks ago, no landowners have visited, but they have been making appointments, Sunoco said. It would not say how many.
Residents can schedule meetings by calling 484-359-7241 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff writer Andrew Maykuth contributed to this article.
January 5, 2015Editor's observations - don't have high hopes or expectations if you opt to meet with them. The apparent goal of the Sunoco Reps we've met is to appease landowners at the lowest possible cost.
— You Decide —
January 2, 2016
|Eminent Domain Apparently Used as Cost Saving Measure In Lebanon County||Sunoco Opened A New Office In Chester County||From Our Email Inbox - A Note From The Pipeline Safety Coalition|
|Electrical Current Under Your Feet||Sunoco Logistics' Marcus Hook Terminal to Export First Ethane in February 2016||Saudi Arabia is "running out of money"|
|Corporate Land Aquisition Without Eminent Domain||For Europe, Marcellus ethane is in the 'pipeline'||And if you've lost money in SXL (Advertisement)|
|Sunoco Logistics Partners: New 52-Week Low Set Today (SXL)||The Fight in Blair County, PA||Troubles For Sunoco|
|Gas industry sees urgent need for more pipelines||Sunoco Logistics Partners, LP fined $95,000 over drilling fluid spills||Mariner East 1 pipeline about to go into operation|
|Eminent domain's disgraceful use||Moving Forward To Win||West Goshen's Toying With Widening Boot Road Again|
|Apparently There Is Some Backbone Left||Mariner East 2 Pipeline discussed at meeting||West Goshen Supervisors approve senior facility|
|Darts & Laurels||Editorial: When business moves away, pols pay||Main Line Chamber of Commerce hosts Montgomery, Chester and Delaware county politicians|
|Cumberland Co. landowners continue fight against pipeline||Can Cumberland County farmland be taken for pipeline? Monday's hearing to continue Feb. 29||Can a pipeline builder take your property through eminent domain?|
|Clean Air Council Defeat Sunoco Efforts to Throw Out Lawsuit||Phila. judge: Pipeline suit can proceed||Pipeline opponents welcome court ruling on challenge to eminent domain|
|Case against Sunoco pipeline can proceed, judge rules||Saudi Arabia Turns To Plan B As Low Oil Prices Rattle Economy||Legal Challenges Against Mariner East Appear Headed to Higher Court|
|Progress or danger? Cumberland County landowners fight pipeline||Lawsuits, Downturn Could Cause More Delays For Embattled Mariner East Pipeline Project||Sunoco Logistics delays Mariner East 2 pipeline|
|Sunoco May Ship First U.S. Waterborne Ethane Export Within Days||Local property owners dig in against pipeline operator||Summary of Eminent Domain Lawsuits to Date: Chester County|
|Sunoco offers update on pipeline plans in East Goshen||Cumberland County property owners to find out soon if pipeline can run through land||Record-High Propane Shipments Leading U.S. Energy export Boom|
|Problematic pipeline||Investors Hammered in Sunoco Logistics Partners Oil and Gas Related Investments||Letter: Sunoco refusing to negotiate|
|Dinniman pushes bill to curb pipeline bullying||Transcript: Landowners protesting Sunoco||Don't let Sunoco take our land for pipeline, property owners ask Pa. appeals court|
|Map of Pipeline Runs Through West Goshen||New Photos-Surveyors near Greenhill Road||Sunoco pipeline to cross 270 properties in Westmoreland County|
|Pipeline Rights vs Private Property Rights||Thirty Pieces of Silver||Invoking power of eminent domain, gas industry runs roughshod over private property|
|Commonwealth Court denies Sunoco’s appeal in Clean Air Council suit||Explosion heat up concerns over gas pipelines||Hearings scheduled for Mainer East II Pipeline|
|County to send letter on Sunoco pipeline to DEP||Pa. DEP sets five public hearings for contentious Mariner East pipeline||DEP to hold public hearing on Mariner East II permit applications|
|Pennsylvania begins Mariner East 2 liquids pipeline review||Split Pa. court hands property owners a loss in fight against land seizures for Sunoco pipeline||Sunoco wins key round in pipeline battle|
|Commonwealth court upholds eminent domain in Sunoco pipeline case||Court ruling says Sunoco can condemn land for liquid natural gas pipeline||Eminent Domain is Becoming a Crucial, Controversial Part of the Gas Pipeline Boom|
|Media Downplays Sunoco’s Huge Court Victory re Mariner East 2||Sunoco pipeline hearing draws a crowd in West Chester||Mariner East 2 partisans clash at DEP public meeting in West Chester|
|Third Circuit Tosses Challenges to Interstate Pipeline||Residents voice concerns over Sunoco pipeline at West Chester University||Sunoco incident hospitalizes seven contract workers|
|OSHA investigates Sunoco Logistics fire that injured 7, four critically||4 critically injured in Port Arthur explosion||Public weighs in on controversial gas liquids pipeline|
|DEP holds Mariner East II pipeline hearing in Harrisburg||Provost Umphrey to represent victims of Sunoco logistics fire||Boot Road Widening rejected by Supervisors|
|Injured worker in Sunoco explosion files lawsuit||Critics, backers face off over proposed Mariner East 2 pipeline project||Straight talk on the Mariner East 2|
|Editorial: Weigh the risks of pipeline plan||Experience, 'risk-taking' are factors in industrial accidents||Celebrities join Native American pipeline protest in Washington, DC|
|For-Profit Pipeline Company Claims "Public Benefit" in Seizing Private Lands in Pennsylvania||Native Americans Standing Up Against Dakota Access Pipeline||Pipeline Protests Bring Dozens of Arrests in Iowa, North Dakota|
|RM&Q law firm brings $1M suit against Sunoco, workers allegedly engulfed by toxic cloud||Sunoco, Sued After August Pipeline Fire, Has a History of Safety Violations||Complaints rise over Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 permits|
|Your Pa. tax dollars at work, siccing dogs on Native American protesters||The Fourth Estate at Work||#NoDAPL: DOJ Halts Construction of Dakota Access Pipeline in Wake of Standing Rock Protests|
|QVC lays off 100 from its West Chester area operation||Troubles At QVC||Pa.'s New Oil and Gas Regs Could Scare Off Industry, Attorneys Say|
|Dakota Access Pipeline Work Halted: Is It the Next Keystone?||Middletown residents voice concerns over Mariner East 2||Editorial: Pipeline conversation heating up|
|DEP gives Sunoco long to-do list on Mariner East 2 pipeline plan||Protest Wednesday Morning at Sunoco Logistics Headquarters||Activists protest Dakota pipeline at Sunoco's Newtown Square HQ|
|Pipeline Wars: Delco protesters stand in solidarity with North Dakota tribes||Delaware Riverkeeper Asks Congress to Probe FERC||Sunoco, behind protested Dakota pipeline, tops U.S. crude spill charts|
|Middletown must vote ‘no’ on Sunoco’s pipeline plan||In gas drilling country, the honeymoon is over on royalties||Middletown grants easements for Sunoco pipeline project|
|Delco township gives go-ahead to Mariner East 2 but demands safeguards||Middletown pipeline foes vow to continue fight||Pennsylvania Ruling on Eminent Domain Puts Contentious Pipeline Project on Alert|
|A new front emerges in the battle against eminent domain||Norway caught in pipeline uproar||U.S. fines Sunoco for pipeline safety lapse after valve incident injures workers|
|A Note From Middletown Coalition for Community Safety||Jeff: What Can You Tell Us About LOTO?||Pennsylvania Landowners Coalition Fighting to Restrict Eminent Domain for NatGas Pipelines|
|Lebanon County judge reverses ruling on Sunoco pump station||Sunoco, others stopped cold in the Dakotas|
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