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.