North Huntingdon gas pipeline meeting contentious

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Concerned property owners packed the North Huntingdon Town House on Wednesday night for an informational meeting led by representatives from Sunoco Logistics Partners LP regarding a proposed 45-mile liquid gas pipeline that could run through their fields.

But the meeting became contentious quickly when the residents pressed the company for answers as to whether the pipeline's route -- slated to carry ethane and propane extracted from Marcellus Shale from a facility in Houston to Delmont -- could fall under eminent domain.

"If I say no, and everyone else says no, what will you do?" asked North Huntingdon resident Dominic Rossetti. "You'll go to the government and condemn my property."

In an interview Wednesday, Jennifer Kocher, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Utility Commission, said Sunoco is registered as a common carrier in the state, similar to a utility company but without as many rights.

As a common carrier, the route of any of the company's pipelines can become eminent domain, but to invoke it the company would have to go before a Court of Common Pleas.

Russell Jones, a Sunoco representative, told the 150 residents at the meeting that it's rare for Sunoco to seek eminent domain and that they try to reach a reasonable monetary agreement for an easement on the property first.

"We hope to learn what conflicts you have with the pipeline and meet with you and everyone else along the corridor to try and resolve those issues," he said.

Hundreds of residents began receiving letters from Sunoco this summer stating that their property was along a potential route for the pipeline and the company would come out to survey the land. Sunoco representatives said the pipeline will be put between 3 and 7 feet into the ground and require a 50-foot permanent easement on each property.

Diana Gray, 60, of North Huntingdon said she wrote back to Sunoco requesting that they contact her before they enter her property. She said the company ignored her request and surveyed the land anyway.

"It's very disappointing the way that they're handling it," she said Wednesday evening.

The Weston family, which owns 30 acres of land in North Huntingdon, said they also asked Sunoco to inform them before the visit to ensure the safety of their livestock.

"We got up one morning and there were stakes in the ground and a broken fence," said Craig Weston, 47.

Mr. Jones said he wasn't aware of the situation, but apologized on behalf of the company and said he would look into the matter.

"It's just a bad situation for everybody," said Gary Weston, 68. "It's going to happen, no matter what we do about it."

The proposed 12-inch pipeline is one leg of Sunoco's Mariner East Project, which aims to process and transport natural gas from Marcellus Shale in southwestern Pennsylvania to a Sunoco processing facility and international port in Marcus Hook, about 20 miles southwest of Philadelphia.

In Delmont, the pipeline in question will connect to existing infrastructure that would deliver the liquid gas to the Delaware County facility. Sunoco officials predict that it will be transporting as much as 70,000 barrels of natural gas a day by the second half of 2014.

MarkWest Energy Partners LP entered a 15-year agreement with Sunoco last month to become the anchor shipper of the project and transport the gas from their facility in Houston to Sunoco's in Marcus Hook for international and domestic sale.

marcellusshale - neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland

Taryn Luna: 412-263-1985 or tluna@post-gazette.com. First Published October 11, 2012 12:00 AM


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