After hundreds of pages of testimony; hundreds of documents, photos, and videos; and a round of “briefs” and “reply briefs”, all the activity in the Safety 7 case has come to a halt. Now, we’re waiting for a decision by Judge Barnes, and confirmation of her decision by the full Public Utility Commission.
Barnes will have a lot to consider. The Safety 7 case (formally known as “Meghan Flynn, et al. v. Sunoco Pipeline, L.P.”) generated a lot of legal documents. Following the hearings, all the parties filed “post-hearing briefs” stating what they claim are the “findings of fact” in the case and giving their arguments for how the relevant laws and regulations should be applied. Many of them also filed “reply briefs” that attempted to show why the opposition’s “post-hearing brief” was wrong.
In this blog post, I will try to provide a sense of the arguments being made in all those briefs. It won’t be possible to discuss all the issues in detail. I will provide links that you can follow to all the documents in the case, and I encourage you to read the ones that interest you. If you find that I have omitted information that you consider important, please let me (and other readers) know in the comments.
An overview of the briefs. The major position statement of each party involved are contained in their “post-hearing briefs”. Here are links to some of the key post-hearing briefs:
- Flynn et al. (the Safety 7 complainants): https://www.puc.pa.gov/pcdocs/1688099.pdf This brief presents the main arguments of the case: that Sunoco has failed to maintain its pipelines properly, that its public-awareness program violates federal law, that its siting of the pipelines violates state law, that its construction practices are illegal, that the PUC has the authority to address these issues, and that neither Sunoco nor Range Resources would be unduly harmed by the judge’s decision.
- Sunoco Pipeline: https://www.puc.pa.gov/pcdocs/1687529.pdf Sunoco’s brief argues that its activities are all lawful and that the pipelines have large public benefits.
- Andover Homeowners Association: https://www.puc.pa.gov/pcdocs/1687243.pdf This brief argues that Sunoco’s public-awareness program does not protect the public and violates federal and state requirements.
- Chester County: https://www.puc.pa.gov/pcdocs/1687707.pdf The County argues that Sunoco has not provided adequate information for Emergency Services and First Responders, and that the public-awareness program is deficient.
In addition to those briefs, there are nine more briefs filed by parties to the case. I won’t provide all the links here, but you can easily find them by going to the PUC website, where this case has the docket number C-2018-3006116. The link is https://www.puc.pa.gov/docket/C-2018-3006116. Click on the choice “Public Documents”, and you will find a list of links to every public document in the case, newest at the top.
The additional briefs include:
- Thoughtful arguments by each of the three of the “pro se” complainants (Rebecca Britton, Laura Obenski, and Melissa DiBernardino). They each, in their own way, focus on safety—particularly the danger to homes and schools.
- Virginia Kerslake, an intervenor in this case whose property is crossed by the pipeline, filed a short brief summarizing her concern for the state of the old pipes, the deficiencies in Sunoco’s public-awareness program, and the impossibility a real evacuation.
- The West Chester and Twin Valley School Districts filed a joint brief, focused on the need for leak notification and improved public education.
- Another joint brief, filed by Downingtown Area School District, the Rose Tree Media School District, East Goshen Township, and State Senator Tom Killion, asks for early warning detection for leaks, prompt notification by Sunoco, and a proper emergency response plan.
- Middletown Township’s brief asks for sensors to monitor the pipeline and prompt notification of Glenwood Elementary School in case of a leak, along with several other requests.
- West Whiteland Township and Delaware County each filed a statement simply saying that they joined with the main Safety 7 brief.
- Range Resources, a key pipeline customer, argues that shutting down the pipelines would harm the public, and that the complainants have not shown they are entitled to ask for a shutdown.
The reply briefs. A few weeks after the post-hearing briefs were filed, all the parties had the opportunity to file “reply briefs” in which they could attempt to rebut the points in their opponents’ post-hearing briefs. Seven parties filed reply briefs (the Safety 7, Sunoco, Andover Homeowners, Chester County, Melissa DiBernardino, Middletown Township, and Range Resources). These documents can all be found on the case docket at the link noted above.
I won’t attempt to summarize the reply briefs here. But in my next blog post, I will attempt to lay out all the major arguments and counter-arguments in this case. That will include information from both the post-hearing briefs and the reply briefs.