On July 10, the township of West Goshen filed a petition with the Public Utility Commission for an “emergency order” to stop Sunoco/ETP’s from continuing to prepare for drilling on a plot near Route 202 and Boot Road. According to the township, Sunoco explicitly agreed not to build there in 2015, but has begun work there anyway. You can read the entire petition (with supporting documents, it runs to 228 pages) here.
This appears to be a good example of the way Sunoco/ETP, in their rush to cash in on the pipeline, is willing to run roughshod over other people’s rights if they find it convenient.
The following is my reading of the situation, based on the West Goshen petition documents. Bear in mind: these are legal documents and I’m not a lawyer. I welcome corrections from others with greater expertise, and I will update this post accordingly.
The 2015 settlement: Sunoco agrees to a site for a valve facility. Sunoco and West Goshen reached a settlement in 2015 as a result of a complaint to the PUC. In that settlement, Sunoco specifically agreed not to build on any site except the one agreed on in the settlement. The site agreed to is in a different location from the one where Sunoco/ETP is working now. The township is not trying to stop Sunoco/ETP from building the pipeline, but they do want the company to abide by its legal agreements about where it can build.
The facility that Sunoco/ETP wants to build is called “Valve 344”. In the 2015 settlement, Sunoco agreed that this facility, which includes a building housing valve equipment and a flaring tower, would be built on a plot that already has some Sunoco above-ground equipment. That plot of land is referred to in the township’s petition as the Janiec 1 Tract. The building activity is occurring on another plot, called the Janiec 2 Tract. (“Janiec” is the family name of the former owners of both plots.)
The two Janiec tracts are on the north side of Boot Road, near where it crosses Route 202 on an overpass. Janiec 1 (where the township agreed the valve could be) is just west of Route 202, next to the southbound off-ramp. For those of you who know the area, there are two conspicuous water towers on the adjacent rise. Janiec 2 (where pre-construction clearing is occurring) is on the other side of Route 202, next to the West Goshen fire station.
But Sunoco never planned to abide by the agreement. After the 2015 settlement was signed, the township thought it had an understanding with Sunoco about where work could occur. But in January of 2017, the township received a map that showed Valve 344 on the Janiec 2 Tract. “Disturbingly,” the township says in its petition, “[Sunoco’s] submissions to the Township in January 2017 indicate that [Sunoco] had plans to place Valve 344 on the Janiec 2 Tract as early as March 26, 2015, which preceded its execution of the Settlement Agreement on April 14, 2015.” The implication is that even when Sunoco signed the settlement agreement, the company already had plans to violate it.
As a result of the January 2017 revelation, the township filed a complaint with the PUC in February. Sunoco raised objections, and the township responded with an amended complaint in March. That complaint has not yet been ruled on by the PUC, but Sunoco has chosen to go ahead with construction anyway. The township’s emergency petition asks the PUC to halt construction until the ruling on the complaint is made.
The township didn’t expect anything to happen until the PUC ruling, but Sunoco/ETP had other ideas. On July 5, the township Assistant Manager got a call from a Sunoco/ETP spokeswoman saying the company would be “mobilizing” the Janiec 2 Tract “in the next one or two weeks,” including setting up a drill site. However, site clearing began on that very day.
Before filing its emergency petition with the PUC, the township asked Sunoco/ETP for a “standstill agreement” until the PUC ruled on the pending complaint. Sunoco/ETP refused. The township then filed its emergency petition on July 10.
Now, the trees are gone. When I drove by the Janiec 2 Tract at lunch today (July 11), I saw Sunoco/ETP contractors hard at work, clearing brush, cutting trees, and leveling the ground with heavy equipment. (See photo below.) Until today, this was a tree-covered area which was supposed to become the location for a retirement community.
Those are the facts as I understand them.
I find this situation very disturbing. If Sunoco/ETP feels free to ignore a legal agreement they signed, what level of trust in them can we have? We must assume that they will do whatever they find convenient in order to profit from their pipeline as soon as possible, with no regard for the interests of others.
ETP’s behavior in dealing with West Goshen fits in with the behavior they are showing in ignoring the Ohio EPA in the context of the Rover pipeline spills.
Can we entrust this company with our safety?