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Sunoco Toppling More Trees After Another Mariner East Court Win

Sunoco Logistics Partners LP's Mariner East project won another small victory this week in Pennsylvania when the Huntingdon County Common Pleas Court ruled that the company could proceed with tree felling on three acres of land owned by a family that has challenged the Mariner East (ME) 2 pipeline project in court.

Sunoco spokesman Jeffrey Shields said the company began clearing trees on Tuesday, after the common pleas court judge ordered the Gerhart family to allow the activity while their lawsuit against the project is on appeal. Sunoco is clearing the right-of-way for the ME 2 pipeline, which would transport ethane, butane and propane from 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.

The Huntingdon County case is one of several that are pending against ME 2 across the state (see Shale DailyFeb. 26). Landowners and an environmental advocacy group have argued that ME does not have eminent domain powers because it is an interstate, and not an intrastate system, regulated as a public utility under state law. Three state courts have already dismissed those complaints and handed Sunoco victories, while two others have ruled against the company.

The Gerharts argue that the pipeline would destroy wetlands on their property and diminish any future conservation efforts. Shields said the company is working to clear trees on a portion of the three acres in Southern Pennsylvania. He said only about 1.7 acres would be needed for the system's permanent easement, which could also accommodate the proposed Mariner East 2X, if it moves forward (see Shale DailySept. 14, 2015).

He added that the company has conducted similar operations on 170 tracts throughout Pennsylvania without having to file an injunction.

"We will continue to work with landowners to address their individual needs and concerns, but as the court noted, protesters do not have the right to prevent Sunoco Pipeline from conducting lawful activity," Shields said. "We have delineated wetlands consistent with Army Corps of Engineers' requirements on the Gerhart property and will not be felling trees within those wetlands."

ME 1, which delivers ethane and propane from Western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook, is already operational. Ethane exports from Marcus Hook to Europe have also started (see Shale DailyMarch 10). ME 2 was expected to be in service later this year but has been delayed until early 2017. Construction is expected to begin this summer.

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