Sunoco/ETP likes to charge ahead and clean up the mess later. There have been many examples of this in its roll-out of the Dragonpipe (Mariner East 2 pipeline). Its handling of the proposed Boot Road valve station is a prime example—and it is also an example of how this strategy can backfire.
Back in 2015, Sunoco signed an agreement with West Goshen Township about the possible location for a valve station. Then in 2017, without prior notice, it proceeded to seize and clear a different plot of land and declared its intention to build the valve station there. The Township petitioned the PUC for an emergency order to halt the work (West Goshen cries “foul”) and their petition was granted by one of the PUC’s Administrative Law Judges (West Goshen wins the first round). No work has been done on the plot since.
On October 25, the full PUC considered whether the work stoppage should continue until a scheduled hearing in April. The Commissioners voted unanimously to continue the stoppage.
This is a major win for the Township and for pipeline opponents. If the work is halted until April, it will set the Dragonpipe work back by almost six months.
The details of the decision by the PUC are available on the Township website. That site also has a link to the full text of the decision.
Will this decision really cause work to stop until April? That remains to be seen. The PUC is encouraging Sunoco/ETP and West Goshen to come to an agreement on their own, which could happen at any time. Sunoco/ETP typically tries to settle these things by offering large sums of money—big money for the Township, but pocket change in the context of a multi-billion-dollar pipeline project. I have to assume they will try this with West Goshen. But so far, West Goshen has shown itself unwilling to be pushed around.
Meanwhile, there are several other Dragonpipe cases making their way through the court system (including one brought by West Goshen residents when the Township failed to enforce its zoning rules covering pipelines). And Sunoco/ETP has been forced to stop drilling in dozens of locations while it compiles geologic reports required by the Clean Air Council settlement. There is also increasing pressure on Governor Wolf to take the pipeline risks seriously. Several legislators have begun speaking out against it, and it is likely that anti-pipeline candidates will prevail in some of the upcoming local elections.
It feels as though opposition to the pipeline is finally gaining some momentum.