Court Dismisses Landowners’ Objections to Mariner East 2 Eminent Domain Request

In an Order issued September 29, 2015, Cumberland County Judge Edward Guido dismissed all the preliminary objections filed by a group of landowners challenging the right of Sunoco Pipeline LP to condemn property for the Mariner East 2 pipeline. The landowners’ August 19, 2015 preliminary objections argued, among other things, that Sunoco Pipeline L.P., is not empowered to exercise eminent domain under Pennsylvania law.

Judge Guido’s one-page Order explained that, contrary to arguments advanced by the landowners, Sunoco Pipeline L.P.’s Mariner East 2 pipeline will provide intrastate service by both loading and offloading ethane, propane, liquid petroleum gas and other petroleum products within the Commonwealth. As such, the Mariner East 2 pipeline will provide intrastate service regulated by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“Commission”). The order held that Sunoco Pipeline L.P. “is a public utility corporation as defined at 15 Pa. C.S.A. § 1103. Pennsylvania public utility corporations possess the power of eminent domain. 15 Pa. C.S.A. § 1511.” Judge Guido noted that since the Mariner East 2 pipeline may be regulated by both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) and the Commission, “federal preemption is not at issue” in this case.

Judge Guido also found that his prior ruling in Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. v. Loper, 2013-SU-4518-05 (C.P. York, February 24, 2014) was not dispositive of or controlling in the present dispute. He explained that the pipeline in Loper was purely interstate pipeline in nature since it crossed Pennsylvania state lines and had no facilities for the off-loading of transported materials. Judge Guido reasoned that since that decision, Sunoco “has reconfigured [the Mariner East 2 pipeline] to be both an interstate pipeline as well as an intrastate pipeline subject to PUC regulation.”

The Commonwealth Court hears appeals from final orders regarding eminent domain matters.

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