Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Setbacks in court for Mariner East 2

There is nothing quite like the smug, satisfying feeling of completing an editorial, sitting back and reviewing your work - only to have it all turned upside down.

That was the case yesterday when I penned still another editorial on the Mariner East 2 Pipeline project.

My original focus was on a ruling by an administrative law judge that went against Sunoco Pipeline in its dispute with West Goshen Township out in Chester County. The disagreement stems from the location of a valve station along the route. The township wants it on one side of the road, Sunoco on the other. And when Sunoco commenced to build it there, the township ran to the courts for relief.

And for one of the very few times, the courts ruled against Sunoco.

Not only that, but the judge halted construction in the township until the state Public Utility Commission can rule on the matter. The ink (OK, we don’t really use ink with these new-fangled computers these days) had barely dried on that piece when a new legal blockbuster was delivered - and it was more bad news for Sunoco and proponents of Mariner East 2.

The state Environmental Hearing Board took a look at some new documents detailing more than 60 incidents of spills connected to pipeline work in the state and ordered a halt to all drilling activities in the state.

Honey, get me rewrite!

I should make something clear here that likely was not in the initial reaction to the ruling. This pertains only to the horizontal directional drilling Sunoco is using in sensitive areas. Other routine pipeline work likely will continue.

But the real point of the editorial was to focus on something that largely was not realized by the public.

The key legal challenge in this fight was won by Sunoco back in 2014.

That is when the PUC granted their request to be considered a public utility. That gave the company a very wide berth in acquiring property under the argument that the pipeline project was a “public benefit.”

There are still legal challenges looming out there, including one to be argued in Philly courts that could halt the project altogether. But I would not put my money on them.

Money is one of the keys here. It talks. There is a lot of money - and jobs and economic benefits - tied to this project. Why do you think we have not heard a peep from Delaware County Council since problems started popping up tied to construction? If I were betting man, I would put the house on this project going forward.

Then again, I thought that before I had to rewrite today’s editorial.

You can read it here.

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