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Sunoco's Westmoreland County pipeline not exempt

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By Chris Foreman
Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

There might be a roadblock to Sunoco Pipeline's petition for exemption from local zoning regulations for new pumping and valve-control stations across the state.

But officials in Westmoreland County aren't particularly interested in opposing the pending request before the state Public Utility Commission, anyway.

In an “initial decision” released last week, two administrative-law judges denied the company's requested designation as a “public utility service” that would exempt it from local zoning conditions for 35 planned stations in 31 municipalities. Among those are a pumping station in Salem Township and valve-control stations in Penn, Hempfield, Rostraver, Loyalhanna and Derry townships.

PUC spokeswoman Robin Tilley said the full commission retains the authority to accept, reject or modify the initial decision at a later public meeting.

A backlash by politicians and residents against a proposed pumping station in Chester County led Sunoco Pipeline last spring to seek the statewide exemption.

In this region, only the Mountain Watershed Association lodged formal opposition to the company's petition.

“If they were going to have a compressor station, we would look at it differently,” said Les Mlakar, the solicitor for Penn, Hempfield and Loyalhanna townships.

In Salem Township, which doesn't have a zoning ordinance, officials don't have any worries, either, Supervisor Kerry Jobe said.

“We work pretty well with the (gas) companies out here,” he said.

Sunoco Pipeline spokesman Jeffrey Shields said company officials think the full PUC board will recognize that the pipeline “will result in numerous public benefits.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2363 or

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