A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that Sunoco Logistics Partners LP can condemn the land of three property owners in Southeast Pennsylvania that refused to sign easements for the company's Mariner East (ME) 2 pipeline project.
The landowners alleged that they had not been offered enough money for the easements and claimed negotiations with the company had been difficult. The Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas ruling was the latest win for Sunoco's project.
Three other 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 that wouldn't benefit the state.
Other cases are pending in Cumberland, Washington and Westmoreland counties.* An attorney for the Lebanon County landowners reportedly said they would appeal the ruling to the state Commonwealth Court.
Sunoco said the Lebanon County decision was consistent with those of other courts and added that eminent domain is a last resort. The company 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 submitted orders and certificates of public convenience relating to the ME project from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).
Sunoco has been developing ME 2 since 2014, and it has added onloading and offloading points throughout the state. The Lebanon County judge ruled that those modifications have done enough to qualify it as an intrastate system with eminent domain rights and cited PUC documents in his decision.
Sunoco has received certificates for parts of the ME system. The PUC has acknowledged that the project would increase takeaway capacity from the Marcellus Shale to points inside and outside of the state, noting its mixed nature as both an interstate and intrastate system.
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. It is expected to be in service by the first half of 2017.
*Clarification: In the original article, NGI's Shale Daily incorrectly stated that two state courts have ruled against Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline project in condemnation proceedings (see Shale Daily, April 12). Those cases involved different issues. The first case dealt with pipeline survey access in York County, while the second case was a preliminary ruling that allowed a lawsuit against the project to move forward in Philadelphia County.