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Pa. court rules for Mariner East 2 pipeline project in dispute with township

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Pa. court rules for Mariner East 2 pipeline project in dispute with township

A Pennsylvania court on Feb. 20 ruled that Sunoco Pipeline LP is allowed to construct its Mariner East 2 NGL pipeline project in West Goshen Township, Pa., as the local government does not have control over the siting of public utility pipelines.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania denied an appeal by environmental group Delaware Riverkeeper Network and landowners, who claimed the Energy Transfer Partners LP affiliate violated a township zoning ordinance, according to an opinion by Judge Robert Simpson.

The appeals court affirmed the decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, which previously ruled that oversight of the pipeline siting by the township was pre-empted by the authority of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and that Mariner East 2 is a public utility facility and is therefore under the jurisdiction of the PUC. Also, according to the trial court, "a township has no power to regulate a public utility by zoning ordinances with regard to uses and structures that are not buildings," thus excluding the pipeline from the ordinance.

"We hold that Sunoco is regulated as a public utility by the PUC and is a public utility corporation," the opinion said. "In addition, we hold that Sunoco is providing intrastate pipeline transportation services regulated by the PUC. We reject [the] plaintiffs' arguments to the contrary."

While the groups also argued that Mariner East 2 would be carrying hazardous materials that may affect health, safety, welfare and property values, the appeals court said such issues involving reasonableness and safety of the pipeline facilities are "committed to the expertise of the PUC."

The project involves the expansion of the Mariner East 1 ethane and propane pipeline to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near Philadelphia. Mariner East 2 would have a capacity of 275,000 barrels per day of NGLs, expandable to 450,000 bbl/d.