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Sunoco pipeline faces opposition in eastern Pennsylvania

Sunoco Logistics, LLP, a large petroleum and natural gas pipeline company, is going ahead with plans to begin construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline from West Virginia across southern Pennsylvania to its terminal at Marcus Hook on the Delaware River north of Philadelphia. While most of the pipeline's route lies in open country, the pipeline must pass through densely populated residential areas before it can reach its planned terminus. Acquiring right-of-way in these areas is posing financial, legal and public relations problems for the pipeline company, and it is taking steps to avoid costly eminent domain proceedings.

A lawyer representing homeowners affected by the pipeline said that acquiring right-of-way in Chester and Delaware counties has been especially difficult because the proposed route passes through areas with many valuable properties in close proximity. Opposition to the pipeline in these counties goes beyond the disruption caused by construction. Homeowners are concerned about long-term safety issues associated with the transportation of volatile liquids such as propane, ethane, butane and natural gas through heavily populated areas. Homeowners are also worried about the pipeline's effect on property values.

Sunoco claims that it is a public utility and that, under Pennsylvania law, it can condemn whatever land is needed for its right-of-way. Thus far, however, the pipeline company has elected to reach out to homeowners and to persuade them that their safety concerns are exaggerated and that they can get the best price for the right-of-way easement by negotiating directly with the company. To this end, Sunoco recently opened a satellite office in Chester County to facilitate direct meetings between company representatives and landowners. Whether such efforts can overcome or significantly reduce opposition to the pipeline remains to be seen.

Anyone whose property lies in the proposed right-of-way for this pipeline or any other public improvement may wish to consult a real estate attorney who is experienced in dealing with eminent domain actions. Such a consultation can provide advice on the legal procedures, effective ways to negotiate with the pipeline company and methods to ensure the maximum payment for the property.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, "A bid to win over residents in pipeline's path," Michaelle Bond, Jan. 5, 2016

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