Residents get look at pipeline planned for eight communities in Westmoreland County

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Although construction of a proposed 50-mile pipeline that will run through southern and central Westmoreland County is expected to begin by year's end, many got their first look at the route -- which will go through historic Bushy Run Battlefield Park -- earlier this week.

"We anticipate the pipeline to be operational by late 2014," said Jeff Shields, spokesperson for Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, who was on hand to answer questions from those attending Monday's information session at Harrison City fire hall in Penn Township.

According to Mr. Shields, when completed, some 70,000 barrels of liquid fuel byproducts will be gushing through the pipeline en route to a refining facility in Claymont, Del., located on the Delaware River.

The pipeline will run through 14 municipalities in Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland counties. In Westmoreland County, eight communities will be affected: Jeannette, Murrysville, Penn Borough, and Rostraver, Salem, Sewickley, Hempfield and South Huntingdon townships.

Known as Sunoco's Mariner East Project, the pipeline would transport byproducts of the region's Marcellus Shale gas well production from the MarkWest Energy Partners LP natural gas processing plant near Houston in Washington County to Sunoco's terminal near Delmont. From there, it would be transported by an existing pipeline to the Sunoco East Coast.

Sunoco is negotiating with 400 property owners, said Joseph McGinn, senior manager of public affairs. Currently, agreements have been reached with about 50 percent of the property owners, he explained.

Mark Kolleda of Penn Township is one still in negotiations. He said he and his wife recently returned to the area to live on his family's homestead following his retirement from the federal government.

According to Mr. Kolleda, the company also is talking about construction of a second pipeline to run parallel to this proposed line. Both Mr. Shields and Mr. McGinn confirmed there are talks about a second pipeline project.

Mr. Kolleda's property is near the Bushy Run Battlefield, which is located on 218 acres along Route 993 in Penn Township. The pipeline, according to a map on view at the meeting, will run through the park that in August celebrated the 250th anniversary of the battle.

No one at the park was available for comment, but Howard Pollman, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission that operates Bushy Run, confirmed Tuesday that the commission is negotiating a license agreement with Sunoco that would make way for the pipeline to go through, but preserve the historical significance of the site.

State Rep. George Dunbar, R-56th District, said he was unaware that the pipeline was running through the historical site; he said he had not even seen the proposed route until Monday's meeting. The representative's district includes Jeannette, Penn and Penn Township.

Mr. Dunbar said he believed this route is better than Sunoco's first proposal that would have had the pipeline run through a more congested area in North Huntingdon.

"Compared to the old proposal, I like this plan better," he said.

According to Mr. McGinn, the latest route was chosen because it parallels an existing Dominion Gas pipeline that he believes was constructed in the 1980s.

While Penn Township Commissioner Ed Sullivan said he couldn't speak for that entire board, he said he has no problem with the pipeline coming through the township.

"Nobody ever wants it in their backyard, but its progress," said the commissioner who noted that the pipeline will come within 100 feet of his house.

Sunoco has estimated that the Mariner East pipeline project will cost about $600 million. According to Mr. McGinn, it has already had a positive effect on the local economy as the pipe is being made at U.S. Steel Corp.'s plant in McKeesport, and a special coating is being applied to the pipe by nearby Dura-Bond Industries.

Mr. Shields said Sunoco has received an Erosion Sedimentation and Control General Permit and hopes to have a wetland/waterbody crossing permit by mid-November.

Linda Metz, freelance writer:

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