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Pipeline project creates unease in Westmoreland County

Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - “I don’t want no parts of it,” said Barry Highberger, 61, of the plans to build another pipeline through his 120 acre farm. “I look over there and see what’s left of the last one and I don’t want to do it again.” Highberger stands for a portrait with some of the 80 cows he raises on his farm in Sewickley Township. 'My parents bought the farm in 1941 or '42… It's home, that's all I can say.'
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>“I don’t want no parts of it,” said Barry Highberger, 61, of the plans to build another pipeline through his 120 acre farm. “I look over there and see what’s left of the last one and I don’t want to do it again.” Highberger stands for a portrait with some of the 80 cows he raises on his farm in Sewickley Township. 'My parents bought the farm in 1941 or '42… It's home, that's all I can say.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Barry Highberger, 61, walks along the path of an interstate shale pipeline that runs through his farm in Sewickley Township on land he uses to grow crops to feed his 80 cows. Berger and his neighbors in Sewickley are trying to stop Sunoco Logistics Partners LP from buying rights of way on their land or using eminent domain to take them, citing frustration from other pipeline projects that are still scarring their land, concerns over private property rights and value, and safety risks. Highberger says he feels the gas and pipeline companies just do whatever they want to do no matter the limits or responsibilities of a contract, and that he has few options when it comes to holding the gas companies accountable for the damage that they have caused to his land.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Barry Highberger, 61, walks along the path of an interstate shale pipeline that runs through his farm in Sewickley Township on land he uses to grow crops to feed his 80 cows. Berger and his neighbors in Sewickley are trying to stop Sunoco Logistics Partners LP from buying rights of way on their land or using eminent domain to take them, citing frustration from other pipeline projects that are still scarring their land, concerns over private property rights and value, and safety risks. Highberger says he feels the gas and pipeline companies just do whatever they want to do no matter the limits or responsibilities of a contract, and that he has few options when it comes to holding the gas companies accountable for the damage that they have caused to his land.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Barry Highberger, 61, is reflected in the rearview mirror of his pickup truck as he drives through the fields of the Sewickley Township farm where he grows alfalfa and other crops to feed his 80 cows. Highberger is frustrated with Sunoco Logistics for repeatedly telling him and other landowners it will use eminent domain to take land its owners will not sell, and that in the end, the project’s goal is to ship fuel abroad. If he can avoid it, he doesn’t plan to sell them a right of way, no matter how much they offer, he said. “I don’t want no parts of it,” Highberger, 61, said standing amidst the crops he’s growing to feed his 80 cows. “I look over there and see what’s left of the last one and I don’t want to do it again.”
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Barry Highberger, 61, is reflected in the rearview mirror of his pickup truck as he drives through the fields of the Sewickley Township farm where he grows alfalfa and other crops to feed his 80 cows. Highberger is frustrated with Sunoco Logistics for repeatedly telling him and other landowners it will use eminent domain to take land its owners will not sell, and that in the end, the project’s goal is to ship fuel abroad. If he can avoid it, he doesn’t plan to sell them a right of way, no matter how much they offer, he said. “I don’t want no parts of it,” Highberger, 61, said standing amidst the crops he’s growing to feed his 80 cows. “I look over there and see what’s left of the last one and I don’t want to do it again.”
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Rocks and a spotty growth pattern line the inside of the path where Dominion Resources Inc. dug out room for an interstate shale gas pipeline a little more than a year ago on Barry Highberger’s dairy farm in Sewickley Township, creating a clear divide in his crops. Inside of it, the spots planted this spring are still mostly bare brown dirt with clusters of rocks, while on the outside, green sprouts cover the ground.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Rocks and a spotty growth pattern line the inside of the path where Dominion Resources Inc. dug out room for an interstate shale gas pipeline a little more than a year ago on Barry Highberger’s dairy farm in Sewickley Township, creating a clear divide in his crops. Inside of it, the spots planted this spring are still mostly bare brown dirt with clusters of rocks, while on the outside, green sprouts cover the ground.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Barry Highberger, 61, holds a sprig of alfalfa he picked from his farm in Sewickley Township from alongside the path where Dominion Resources Inc. dug out room for an interstate shale gas pipeline a little more than a year ago. In the fields planted last year, alfalfa is thick and dark green on either side of the right of way, and overshadowed by tall, nutritionally inferior, yellow-green grass within it.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Barry Highberger, 61, holds a sprig of alfalfa he picked from his farm in Sewickley Township from alongside the path where Dominion Resources Inc. dug out room for an interstate shale gas pipeline a little more than a year ago.  In the fields planted last year, alfalfa is thick and dark green on either side of the right of way, and overshadowed by tall, nutritionally inferior, yellow-green grass within it.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Barbara Frieze, 61, walks along the path of an interstate shale pipeline that runs through her backyard in Sewickley Township with her granddaughter Mia Lust, 20 months, of North Huntington. Frieze and her neighbors in Sewickley are trying to stop Sunoco Logistics Partners LP from buying rights of way on their land or using eminent domain to take them, citing frustration from other pipeline projects that are still scarring their land, concerns over private property rights and value, and safety risks.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Barbara Frieze, 61, walks along the path of an interstate shale pipeline that runs through her backyard in Sewickley Township with her granddaughter Mia Lust, 20 months, of North Huntington. Frieze and her neighbors in Sewickley are trying to stop Sunoco Logistics Partners LP from buying rights of way on their land or using eminent domain to take them, citing frustration from other pipeline projects that are still scarring their land, concerns over private property rights and value, and safety risks.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Barbara Frieze, 61, and her granddaughter Mia Lust, 20 months, of North Huntington look out to Frieze's backyard in Sewickley Township. 'It was our dream house, that was the idea, ' said Frieze who has been trying to stop Sunoco Logistics Partners LP from buying rights of way on her land for another pipeline that would cut diagonally through her property and into the area where she keeps horses, a dream of hers.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Barbara Frieze, 61, and her granddaughter Mia Lust, 20 months, of North Huntington look out to Frieze's backyard in Sewickley Township. 'It was our dream house, that was the idea, ' said Frieze who has been trying to stop Sunoco Logistics Partners LP from buying rights of way on her land for another pipeline that would cut diagonally through her property and into the area where she keeps horses, a dream of hers.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Ed Frieze, 61, stands in his kitchen in Sewickley Township talking about another proposed pipeline being planned to go through his property. The deal, which Frieze and his wife oppose, is part of a $600 million plan Sunoco Logistics has to ship Marcellus shale propane and ethane to Canada and Europe. It got support from Gov. Tom Corbett and Sen. Pat Toomey last fall, then ran into opposition from homeowners along the project’s first path through dense parts of North Huntingdon. Sunoco Logistics responded this year by pushing the path further east, along two pipelines lines that already exist.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Ed Frieze, 61, stands in his kitchen in Sewickley Township talking about another proposed pipeline being planned to go through his property. The deal, which Frieze and his wife oppose, is part of a $600 million plan Sunoco Logistics has to ship Marcellus shale propane and ethane to Canada and Europe. It got support from Gov. Tom Corbett and Sen. Pat Toomey last fall, then ran into opposition from homeowners along the project’s first path through dense parts of North Huntingdon. Sunoco Logistics responded this year by pushing the path further east, along two pipelines lines that already exist.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Barbara Frieze, 61, looks out to her backyard in Sewickley Township along the path of another proposed pipeline. “I wasn’t happy about two lines. Three lines is unacceptable. This is where I draw the line because if I don’t, it’s going to be four,” said Barbara Frieze, 61, of Sewickley. “If one of those babies blow, they’re going to find bits of us blown all over Herminie.”
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Barbara Frieze, 61, looks out to her backyard in Sewickley Township along the path of another proposed pipeline. “I wasn’t happy about two lines. Three lines is unacceptable. This is where I draw the line because if I don’t, it’s going to be four,” said Barbara Frieze, 61, of Sewickley. “If one of those babies blow, they’re going to find bits of us blown all over Herminie.”

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By Timothy Puko
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A Sunoco Logistics pipeline project to connect Washington County gas with a Philadelphia export terminal is facing renewed protests in Westmoreland County, despite the company's attempt to move it away from suburban opposition.

More than a dozen landowners have contacted state Rep. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen, about stopping Sunoco Logistics Partners LP from buying rights of way on their land or using eminent domain to take them, his office manager Mary Jo Smith said.

The residents cite frustration from other pipeline projects that are still scarring their land, concerns over private property rights and value, and safety risks.

At stake is part of a $600 million plan Sunoco Logistics has to ship Marcellus shale propane and ethane to Canada and Europe. It received support from Gov. Tom Corbett and Sen. Pat Toomey last fall, then ran into opposition from homeowners along the project's first path through dense parts of North Huntingdon. Sunoco Logistics responded this year by pushing the path farther east, along two pipelines that already exist.

“I wasn't happy about two lines. Three lines is unacceptable. This is where I draw the line because if I don't, it's going to be four,” said Barbara Frieze, 61, of Sewickley. “If one of those babies blow, they're going to find bits of us blown all over Herminie.”

Company officials are still pushing to acquire land and start the project by this fall, spokesman Joe McGinn said, adding that pipelines are the safest way to transport fuel.

Officials plan to do regular inspections to detect any defects and corrosion, McGinn said. Before the line goes into service in mid-2014, Sunoco Logistics will lead training sessions with emergency responders along the route, he added.

“Our focus is and will always be mitigating risk by operating our lines safely and keeping the products we ship and store intact in their pipes and tanks,” McGinn said.

The company has had 187 accidents causing about $34.5 million in property damage nationwide since 2006, according to federal records. Its only incident in the region happened in Murrysville in 2008, when a plug blew out during maintenance, sending a gusher of gasoline into the air. More than 12,000 gallons in all leaked out, killing aquatic life in 3 miles of Turtle Creek and causing several businesses and homes to be evacuated.

Investigators at the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration blamed the company. Sunoco Logistics agreed to pay $232,900 to PHMSA and $99,000 to the state Fish and Boat Commission.

The accident happened along the same path Sunoco Logistics is using to get the new 50-mile pipeline to a hub in Delmont, said Dan Stevens, deputy emergency management coordinator for the Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety.

Stevens credits Sunoco Logistics for a low accident rate. It has averaged about 25 incidents a year over 6,182 miles of pipeline, and only one, nonfatal injury during that span, according to federal records.

The company has already shared plans and helped lead safety training for emergency responders in both Westmoreland and Washington counties, said Stevens and Jeffrey Yates, the public safety director in Washington County.

“Sunoco Logistics has been a good partner. They've been a good neighbor. They do report and explain to us and to the public what they're doing,” Stevens said.

The Friezes and their neighbor Barry Highberger are suspicious of the industry. Both are still upset with Dominion Resources Inc. for the condition of their land after the company dug out room for an interstate shale gas pipeline there a little more than a year ago.

The right of way is rocky and partly bare as it runs between their rolling countryside properties. On Highberger's dairy farm, the path creates a clear divide in his crops.

Highberger is upset at Sunoco Logistics for repeatedly telling him and other landowners it will use eminent domain to take land its owners won't sell. And he's angry, too, that in the end, the project's goal is to ship fuel abroad. If he can avoid it, he doesn't plan to sell a right of way, no matter how much the company's offer is, he said.

“I don't want no parts of it,” Highberger, 61, said, standing among the crops he's growing to feed his 80 cows. “I look over there and see what's left of the last one, and I don't want to do it again.”

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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