Perhaps two unrelated cases of individual landowners challenging Energy Transfer’s Mariner East 2 (ME2) Pipeline–one in court, the other with regulators–doesn’t make a trend, but it is worth noting. Our antennae are up.
Is this a new tactic being pushed by anti-fossil fuel groups?
In one case, a new lawsuit by a local developer attempts to block ME2 by claiming an easement awarded to Mariner East 2 for the property near Philadelphia was “temporary” and is now expired. The lawsuit is being pushed by well-known anti-fossil fuel shakedown expert State Sen. Andy “Tony Soprano” Dinniman.
In the another case, a Cumberland County homeowner (who looks to us like an old hippie, watch the video below) who lives nearly a quarter of a mile from Mariner East 2 says the pipeline is “a bomb” and that his home sits “in the blast zone” of the pipeline. That’s the language of an anti-fossil fuel true believer. It’s also incendiary and false. The homeowner filed a complaint with the state Public Utility Commission and will get a hearing next month.
Big Green groups have repeatedly sued the Mariner East projects and challenged the projects before regulatory bodies like the PUC, but we’ve not noticed many individuals doing so. Which makes us wonder if this is a new tactic hatched by Big Green–death by a thousand cuts, or in this case by a thousand lawsuits/regulatory challenges.
Evidence “A” this may be a Big Green plot: The following press release from anti-driller Sen. Andy Dinniman, touting the lawsuit in Chester County Common Pleas Court claiming ME2’s easements are expired:
Sunoco’s temporary easements related to construction of the controversial Mariner East pipeline project are expiring at sites throughout Chester County, state Senator Andy Dinniman said today.
In a lawsuit filed this afternoon in Chester County Common Pleas Court, attorneys for the Hankin Group, a Chester County-based residential, commercial and retail developer, asked a judge to force Sunoco off four of its properties where it is still constructing the pipeline.
The four sites identified in the filing include one at Corner Park Apartments on Boot Road in West Whiteland, one at New Kent Apartments in East Goshen, and two on Stockton Drive and Sierra Drive at Eagleview in Upper Uwchlan.
Residents have raised numerous concerns about pipeline construction at these locations, including environmental, air quality and quality-of-life impacts, given their close proximity to multi-family residential dwellings.
The Complaint contends that Sunoco is in breach of a temporary easement agreement that has elapsed on the Corner Park and New Kent Properties in November and on the Eagleview Properties in January.
In turn, the four-count complaint calls for Sunoco to immediately cease all pipeline construction activities at the sites, remove all construction equipment, pipes, machinery and related materials there, and restore the affected areas to their prior condition.
In addition, Hankin Group is suing Sunoco for trespassing, breach of agreement and damages. According to the lawsuit, Sunoco’ trespass and breach of easement agreements have caused “damage to the ground caused by excavation; damage from excessive runoff caused by removal of grass and foliage; harm to the value of properties; lost rents; loss of use; and diminution in value of properties.”
Dinniman, who has long been a leading and vocal critic of the safety concerns associated with the Mariner East pipeline, said the lawsuit should serve as a reminder to others in the area.
“Temporary easements that Sunoco negotiated nearly two years ago – long before we knew just how significant and how potentially dangerous this project would be – may now be expiring,” Dinniman said. “I encourage residents and businesses in the area to check their easement agreements to see if Sunoco should still be on their land. Sunoco may try to walk all over us, but this is a matter of private property rights.”
Dinniman, who also highlighted news reports that the Mariner East project is adversely impacting local property values, said the lawsuit may serve as a turning point in opposition to the problem-riddled project.
“Hankin Group has always been a first-rate and community-conscious developer in the Chester County region. What we are now seeing are major players in economic development standing up and saying, ‘No, the way this project is going isn’t good for our communities and it isn’t good for business, either.’ Hankin is leading the way and it’s up to others to follow,” Dinniman said.
Dinniman pointed to a notice to vacate that Hankin’s in-house counsel sent to Sunoco on January 23.
In that letter, Michael Malloy, General Counsel for the Hankin Group, wrote, “At the time, Landowner and Grantee negotiated the Easement, Grantee’s representatives vastly underplayed, and consequently, Landowner greatly underestimated the substantial damage that the pipeline installation would cause to the Property, Landowner’s business interest and most importantly, the health, safety and welfare of our community.”
Dinniman also noted that the project’s repeated delays due to public safety and environmental safety violations, which are resulting in the easement expirations, were Sunoco’s own fault.
“Mariner East has basically brought nothing but problems to Chester County. Sunoco appears to be a textbook example of how to be a bad neighbor. And what’s more ironic is that its own apparent hastiness and carelessness seem to have resulted in more and more delays and shutdowns. Sunoco has not only chosen to position itself as an enemy of our residents and communities. It’s been its own worst enemy, too,” he said. (1)
Copy of the lawsuit filed against Sunoco/ME2:
Evidence “B” is an article about the upcoming PUC hearing for an old hippy from Cumberland County:
A Cumberland County man’s fight with the company that owns the Mariner East pipelines will come before the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission next month.
Wilmer Baker, of Lower Frankford Township, had filed his complaint in September over his safety concerns with the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which runs near his home as it traverses the county and state.
A PUC administrative law judge has set a hearing for 10 a.m. March 28.
“I’m not against the pipeline per say, but I want them to do it right,” Baker said today.
His complaint against Energy Transfer, the company that owns the Sunoco pipelines, is over safety. Baker filed it on Aug. 10, stating the company refuses to install an alarm system to warn residents of a leak. He added the company used old iron in the parallel-running Mariner East 1 that he said is out of compliance with today’s standards.
Baker states he wants the company to:
Install an alarm system for residence within 1,000 feet of the “blast zone,”
Train emergency personnel,
And replace some of the old piping with American made steel.
His house is within that blast zone, he said.
Sunoco Pipeline’s attorneys have denied these claims in filings with the PUC and argue they lack merit and legal backing.
The 350-mile pipeline has been online since December. It transports domestically-produced ethane, propane and butane east from processing plants in Ohio, across West Virginia and Pennsylvania to Energy Transfer’s Marcus Hook Industrial Complex in Delaware County, where its stored for distribution locally, domestically and overseas.
The Mariner East 2X pipeline, which parallels the Mariner East 2, is expected to be in service by late 2019.
Baker’s complaint is not the only trouble the pipeline has seen.
Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan opened a criminal investigation into the pipeline, which has drawn blame for causing sinkholes and polluting drinking water and waterways.
In August, state officials levied a $148,000 fine against the company for harming private wells while building the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Lebanon, Berks and Chester counties.
And in April, the company agreed to pay a $355,622 penalty for allowing materials from drilling for the natural gas products pipeline to flow into streams and wetlands in Cumberland, Dauphin, Blair, Cambria, Huntingdon, Indiana, Lancaster, Washington, Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. (2)
A video of Mr. Baker, from last September. Notice the tee shirt he’s wearing, picturing the “Justice League” superheros. A not-so-subtle message?
(1) Senator Andy Dinniman (Feb 1, 2019) – Dinniman: Sunoco Easements Expiring in Chester County
(2) Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News (Feb 6, 2019) – Cumberland County man, Mariner East pipeline owners, set for hearing over safety
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