Media Downplays Sunoco’s Huge Court Victory re Mariner East 2

Sunoco LogisticsLast Friday MDN brought you the really big news that Sunoco Logistics Partners had won a major appeals court case that recognizes them as a public utility in Pennsylvania with the right to use eminent domain to build the Mariner East 2 NGL pipeline (see Sunoco LP Wins Major Court Decision for Mariner East 2 Pipeline). Although Big Green groups like the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council are attempting to spin the decision as no big deal–it is a big deal, and they know it. So how does the Associated Press, in bed with Big Green, report the decision? This is their headline: “Sunoco clears 1 legal hurdle after pipeline project ruling.” Laughable! It’s more than one hurdle. Sunoco essentially put another 7 points on the board with 5 seconds left to play…

Here’s the entire AP article, as reported in dozens of media outlets:

Sunoco has cleared one legal hurdle after a Pennsylvania appeals upheld the energy company’s power to take private property for a pipeline project, but others obstacles remain.

Commonwealth Court on Thursday upheld Sunoco Logistics Partners’ power to take private property for its Mariner East 2 Pipeline. The decision was a blow to property owners trying to prevent the use of eminent domain for the 300-mile pipeline project.

The company has said the pipeline would provide four times the capacity to move gas from Marcellus Shale drilling sites in western Pennsylvania to its Marcus Hook storage and distribution facility near Philadelphia.

However, a separate suit also argues that Sunoco has no legal right to use eminent domain to build its pipelines. That suit, filed last year in Philadelphia by the Clean Air Council, argues the pipelines don’t serve a public need. (1)

What the article totally ignores is that the case serves as precedence for a number of other cases. A local reporter in Lebanon, PA recognized that in his story:

In a ruling that could impact three Lebanon County property owners attempting to stop Sunoco Logistics from building a natural gas liquids pipeline across their properties, a split Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled Thursday that the company can use eminent domain to take private property for its Mariner East 2 project.

“It’s kind of a jolt to us,” said Jerry Thomas, a Heidelberg Township homeowner not involved in the Cumberland County lawsuit decided Thursday, but a party to a similar case. “We were waiting for this decision because our appeal case is coming up soon as well.”

The Mariner East 2 project would parallel an existing pipeline route, taking natural gas liquids from Marcellus Shale-rich areas in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to a distribution facility in eastern Pennsylvania, crossing Lebanon County in the process.

Owners of three Heidelberg Township properties, including Thomas, had challenged Sunoco’s right to build the pipeline on their properties without their permission. After Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas Judge Robert Eby ruled against them in April, they announced plans to appeal the decision to Commonwealth Court.

Thursday’s Commonwealth Court decision, issued by Judge Renee Jubelirer, stems from a case involving Cumberland County litigants, not those from Lebanon County. However, the Lebanon County and Cumberland County cases have very similar legal arguments.

Attorney Mike Faherty, who is representing the Lebanon County defendants, could not immediately be reached for comment on how the Commonwealth Court decision’ will impact the Lebanon County appeals. (2)

National media refuses to report the story honestly, but local reporters often don’t get that luxury. The truth leaks out. We found this quite a contrast, between the Clean Air Council’s spoon-fed AP reporter and a local reporter in Lebanon County.

(1) Associated Press (Jul 15, 2016) – Sunoco clears 1 legal hurdle after pipeline project ruling

(2) Lebanon (PA) Daily News (Jul 15, 2016) – Pipeline ruling deals blow to Lebanon County landowners