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Environmental Group Derides Sunoco Unit for Pipeline Strategy

An environmental group says Sunoco Logistics Partners LP is trying to circumvent local zoning ordinances in Pennsylvania by applying for an exemption with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) for its Mariner East pipeline.

Sunoco requested an exemption from the state's Municipalities Planning Code in April (see Shale DailyApril 28). If granted, Sunoco would have status as a public utility.

In a post on its website, Protecting Our Waters (POW) -- a nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia and focused on environmental issues in the Delaware, Ohio and Susquehanna River basins -- urged supporters to write letters to PUC Chairman Robert Powelson before Monday's deadline for public comments on Sunoco's application.

"If granted public utility status, [Sunoco] will gain the ability to exercise eminent domain over the municipalities and citizens of Pennsylvania to build their controversial Mariner East pipeline," POW said. "Don't let the PUC give [Sunoco] a free pass on a volatile natural gas liquids pipeline project without being subject to local zoning ordinances and approvals.

"The Mariner East is a high-pressure, high-volume pipeline with numerous pump and valve stations. Many townships are up in arms, understandably, and residents are demanding greater transparency and adequate time for public review."

Mariner East is a two-phase pipeline project designed to move natural gas liquids (NGL) from southwest Pennsylvania and Ohio to Marcus Hook, PA, the site of a terminal on the Delaware River near Philadelphia.

Several environmental groups and local governments oppose Sunoco's application for public utility status. They argue that the company does not meet the criteria for such a classification.

Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields told NGI’s Shale Daily that the company would “reserve comment on this matter to our filings with the PUC.” On Monday, attorneys for the subsidiary filed a letter urging regulators to deny preliminary objections over the project by another environmental group, the Clean Air Council (CAC).

Specifically, CAC is objecting to an application by Sunoco for a PUC finding that the placement of shelter pump stations and valve control stations were “reasonably necessary for the convenience and welfare of the public.” The Mariner East project calls for constructing 17 valve stations and 18 pumping stations.

Sunoco “will be providing transportation service for the public because, in addition to interstate service that may result in foreign exports, [Sunoco] will be providing interstate service that may also result in delivery of propane to local and regional markets, including deliveries of propane within Pennsylvania, together with intrastate transportation service to the public to, among other things, satisfy local demand for propane within Pennsylvania,” the attorneys said.

They also accused CAC of leveling “baseless speculation about environmental harm from the pipeline.”

According to Sunoco, Mariner East Phase I is projected to have an initial capacity of 70,000 b/d of NGLs and is expected to move propane by the second half this year (see Shale DailySept. 9, 2013). Meanwhile, Mariner East Phase II would transport NGLs from processing facilities in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and West Virginia to Marcus Hook by 4Q2016 (see Shale DailyDec. 5, 2013).

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