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DEP approves Sunoco's Mariner East 2 project

| Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, 5:45 p.m.
Sunoco Logistics
This map shows the approximate route and facility locations for Sunoco Logistics' Mariner East 1 and 2 pipeline projects, which will ship natural gas liquids from the Marcellus and Utica shale areas to the company’s Marcus Hook complex near Philadelphia.

When Salem Township Supervisor Kerry Jobe learned of the Department of Environmental Protection's approval of the 306-mile Mariner East 2 pipeline Monday, he was relieved.

“I'm surprised it hasn't happened yet. I thought it would be sooner. We prepped the roads months and months ago,” he said. “We've been a natural gas haven. So people are used to it around here.”

After five public hearings and 29,000 public comments, the DEP approved two outstanding permits needed for Sunoco Logistics LP to move forward with the construction of the controversial pipeline, which will traverse 36 miles of Westmoreland County. The 20-inch pipeline will run parallel to Sunoco's 12-inch Mariner East line, with both carrying propane, ethane and butane to the company's Marcus Hook plant in Southeast Pennsylvania.

According to the DEP permit, the pipeline will cross about 270 properties in Jeannette, Murrysville and Rostraver, South Huntingdon, Sewickley, Hempfield, Penn, Salem, Loyalhanna and Derry townships. Before Sunoco Logistics LP can move forward with construction, the company must first gain approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.

There were mixed emotions associated with Monday's approval.

Mountain Watershed Association Deputy Director Krissy Kasserman previously expressed disdain for the project.

“It's going to cross underneath the Youghiogheny River. It's also going to be developed in an area where there is a substantial number of homes,” Kasserman said.

Jobe said he and township officials approached the project with concern.

Last April, a natural gas transmission line operated by Spectra Energy ruptured in the township, sparking an explosion that sent a fireball soaring hundreds of feet into the air near the intersection of routes 819 and 22. One man suffered burns on about half of his body when his house was leveled by the blast; about 40 acres of farmland was seared.

“But the general consensus is we're used to having it and we need to have it done and planned in a careful way,” Jobe said. “The relationships with us and the gas companies have been pretty good. We've worked to try to figure something out that maintains the safety of the residents.”

Jobe said Sunoco and the township have had meetings to discuss the process, including eminent domain, which was a cause for concern.

“It was a little questionable,” he said, referring to Sunoco Logistics LP's attainment of eminent domain from the Public Works Committee. “But it's something we're prepared for. We prepped the roads months before and had conversations with those landowners.”

State Rep. Eric Nelson, a Republican who represents Salem, thinks the news is “fantastic.”

“It'll bring jobs and much needed infrastructure to the area. We're kind of at a max capacity right now and that's been driving natural gas prices down,” Nelson said.

“We have to keep our eye on the environmental side of things. But also, it's a big win for jobs and for the ability to increase (natural) gas prices (for the industry),” Nelson said.

Marcellus Shale Coalition President Dave Spigelmyer characterized the project as “key to connecting more consumers and manufacturers to the benefits made possible by our abundant and affordable natural gas supplies.”

With additional reporting from Stephen Huba. Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can reach him at 724-850-1298 or dcarr@tribweb.com.

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