PA Judge Hears Mariner East NGL Pipeline Eminent Domain Case

court gavelSunoco Logistics–and for that matter, MarkWest–have a lot riding on a single court case in Washington County, PA. It might be a bit melodramatic to say the future of the Mariner East NGL (natural gas liquids) pipeline hangs in the balance, but it certainly is not inaccurate to say the case could cause an extended delay–if it goes the “wrong” way (for Sunoco). What’s the case about?

Sunoco’s Mariner East “refined products” pipeline spans the entire state of Pennsylvania. In order to connect to that pipeline to ship propane and ethane to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia, Sunoco first has to build a 50-mile feeder pipeline from the MarkWest processing plant in Houston (Chartiers Township) to Delmont (see the Sunoco map below). The problem is, a group of landowners in Washington County won’t play ball and lease their land to Sunoco to bury the pipeline. Sunoco got tired of negotiating with the recalcitrant landowners, and changed tactics to declare it (Sunoco) has eminent domain power under PA state authority. They sue the 25 landowners for force them to allow the pipeline. The landowners sued back arguing the 50-mile pipeline should come under federal, not state, authority. One of the 25 cases is being used as a proxy for the others and that case was just argued yesterday before a PA judge. A decision, according to the judge, will be “prompt”…

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