Chester County PA Seeks to Halt Mariner East 2 Pipeline

by Duane Nichols on April 13, 2019

Mariner East transports Ethane to Delaware Bay for Export

Chester County PA files lawsuit to halt Sunoco pipeline construction

From an Article by Michael P. Rellahan, Daily Local News, Chester County, PA, April 11, 2019

WEST CHESTER — Sunoco should not be permitted to construct its Mariner East pipeline through property owned by Chester County because the company improperly switched construction techniques after the county gave it access to the land through permanent easements, according to a lawsuit.

The suit filed in Chester County Common Pleas Court asks that a permanent injunction be issued against Sunoco, barring it from constructing the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline on land at the Chester County Library in West Whiteland, as well as portions of the Chester Valley Trial that parallels Route 30 through that township, unless it uses a “bore drilling” method of constriction.

The suit, filed on behalf of the three county commissioners and the county itself, contends that Sunoco disregarded language in the agreements for supplemental permanent easements, specifically the company’s intent to undertake “open trench” construction for Mariner 2 on the Chester County Library property without county permission and in the absence of any temporary construction easement, according to a press release.

This legal action follows the county commissioners’ decision earlier this year to terminate two temporary easements though county property for pipeline construction, and the simultaneous decision to intervene in litigation filed by residents in Chester and Delaware counties before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission against the company for its pipeline plans.

The lawsuit was spurred on Friday, when Sunoco informed the county that it would begin construction of the Mariner 2 pipelines on the Chester County Library property via traditional open trench method, rather than the bore method that had been included in agreements the county signed in 2017.

That decision drew an immediate reaction from the commissioners.

“At a site meeting last Friday between county staff and Sunoco representatives it became clear that Sunoco was going to proceed with the open trench method of installation at the Chester County Library property without providing written justification or county permission,” said commissioners’ Chairwoman Michelle Kichline in the release.

“This action violates the terms of the supplemental permanent easement.”

“Normally, when it comes to the installation of pipelines, municipal and county governments are restricted in our options to regulate. State regulators and legislators have essentially made us powerless to stop the process,” added Kichline. “But in this instance, the county as the landowner has the right to insist that Sunoco follows the terms of the supplemental permanent easement to the letter of the law.”

“By Sunoco not agreeing to follow those terms I have concerns that they may place our citizens at risk,” she said.

Commissioner’s Vice Chairwoman Kathi Cozzone further noted that the commissioners, “believe that Sunoco will be unable to construct the Mariner 2 pipeline on the county library property within the existing 50-foot right-of-way and in a manner which ensures public safety and welfare.

“By Sunoco’s unauthorized action to begin construction, we deemed it necessary to file this lawsuit to ensure that any construction across county property is done properly and does not adversely impact the surrounding neighborhoods,” Cozzone added.

Commissioner Terence Farrell added, “Now that Sunoco is crossing county property, we are able to formally petition the Court of Common Pleas and request the issuance of a permanent injunction prohibiting Sunoco from constructing the Mariner 2 pipeline in a manner that could place our citizens in jeopardy.”

All three commissioners are seeking re-election to the board in the May primary.

In February, the commissioners announced that they would file a motion to intervene in the PUC action that opposes the pipeline construction because of safety concerns.

They said that for more than two years the county Department of Emergency Services had been formally requesting crucial pipeline emergency safety information and procedures from Sunoco, either directly or through the PUC and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, in order to prepare mass notification plans and neighborhood emergency practices in the event of a Mariner East pipeline disaster.

The commissioners contended those requests have gone unanswered. Thus, they said they had decided to join with the complainants in the case of Flynn vs. Sunoco because of shared interests. Other governmental entities, such as the West Chester Area School District, have also asked to intervene in opposition to the pipeline.

At that same time, the commissioners notified Sunoco that the county planned to terminate two temporary easements on the library property that were granted to the company in 2017 — a work space easement and an access road easement — for the new pipeline constriction.

Work on the property did not commence within the term of the temporary easements, the county contends, so the commissioners’ letter informs Sunoco that it no longer entitled to utilize the county’s library’s property. There were no terms for renewal of the temporary easements within the 2017 agreements.

In the news release issued Wednesday about the civil lawsuit, Kichline said, “Sunoco must understand that the County owns this property and we have the right to ensure as they cross County land that adjacent neighbors and our citizens are not adversely affected in any way.”

The suit was prepared on behalf of the county by the West Chester law firm of Buckley, Brion, McGuire & Morris. The case has been assigned to Judge Ann Marie Wheatcraft. No hearing date has been set.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

S. Thomas Bond April 14, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Maybe we are coming to a corner. This article and the previous one seem to indicate there is a powerful will to curtail the industries that belch carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Although sources vary, the believers in global warming well outnumber those who do not and the number is increasing.

The industry continues to have financial problems, even when the vast externalities, global warming, contaminated land and water and sickness are ignored. These include collapse into a few large companies, as the recent acquisition of Anadarko by Chevron. These biggest companies are diversified and developing renewables, too. Even they have to buy back their own stock to keep up the worth of stock, though.

NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, has become the enemy of the developer – Antienvironmentalist crowd. Politicians are trying to weaken it, and it is not adhered to by the agency that is supposed to set standards for the industry, but it is clear enough in its writing, attacks through the courts allow it to restrict mindless development.

The real problem is the influence of big money on government. More and more, the environmental problem is a political problem, and the fight is between people today and people of tomorrow and centers unwilling to change.

Tom Bond, Lewis County, WV

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