PA County Judge Attacks Mariner East 2 Status as Public Utility

court-gavel.jpgSunoco Logistics Partners, the builder of the Mariner pipeline projects, has fought a long and hard legal battle to be recognized as a public utility in Pennsylvania–especially with regard to the next big project in the lineup, the Mariner East 2 pipeline. ME2, as it’s called, is a $2.5 billion, 350-mile natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline that will run from eastern Ohio through the state of Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. From the beginning anti-pipeline fanatics have tried to derail the project by claiming it is not a public utility (with the right of eminent domain) as defined by PA’s statutes. In July 2014 two administrative law judges working for the PA Public Utility Commission (PUC) said ME2 is not a public utility (see Setback for Mariner East NGL Pipe – Judges Say Not Public Utility). But a few months later, the Commissioners of the PUC overruled them and said yes, it is a public utility–always has been, always will be (see Major Milestone: PA PUC Rules Mariner East IS a Public Utility). However, the antis continued to challenge it in court. Finally, in July 2016, PA’s Commonwealth Court in hearing an appealed case ruled in favor of Sunoco, saying that ME2 is regulated by both the PUC and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and it therefore has the right to use eminent domain (see Sunoco LP Wins Major Court Decision for Mariner East 2 Pipeline). However, a county judge in Lebanon, PA has just rendered a decision that once again attempts to question ME2’s classification as a public utility. The decision, and how it impacts ME2, is complicated…

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