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North Huntingdon residents concerned about pipeline plan

| Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

Several North Huntingdon residents are concerned about a company's proposal to build a high-pressure gas pipeline, which could go through several properties in the southern portion of the township.

About two dozen residents met with state Rep. George Dunbar (R-56) who has been contacting Texas-based Sunoco Logistics on their behalf, to address worries about the proposed 12-inch, underground pipeline.

Residents shared concerns about the gas company running pipeline through their property without their permission and causing a disruption, and whether it is safe to run a high-pressure gasline through residential areas.

Sunoco Logistics sent letters to several property owners in the region informing them that surveying crews would be coming onto their properties to scout a possible route for the Mariner East pipeline. The company hopes to establish rights of way on private and public properties for the pipeline, Dunbar said.

“This doesn't mean any wells are coming – it's solely a pipeline coming through the area,” Dunbar said. “They're evaluating their routes and just because someone got a letter, it doesn't mean the pipeline will go through their yard.”

According to a news release from the company, the Mariner East pipeline will transport propane and ethane, which is a byproduct of Marcellus and Utica shale gases. The 50-mile pipeline is scheduled to run from Houston, which is about 25 miles south of Pittsburgh, through North Huntingdon and into Delmont.

In Delmont, the pipeline would connect to an existing line that runs to New Jersey, according to the company's website.

The company expects the pipeline to transport 65,000 barrels per day of natural gas liquid, but has the potential to support higher volumes.

Sunoco Logistics expects to transport ethane through the Mariner East pipeline by mid-2013. The company expects the pipeline could transport propane by the second half of 2014, and fully operational by the first half of 2015.

Dunbar said the company is legally allowed to come onto private properties to conduct surveys and test the ground's subsurface through the eminent domain law. Although the right to survey is through the eminent-domain law, Dunbar said the company has no right to take land for a right of way. Instead they must purchase the land.

The entire surveying process should take approximately three months, which will help the company determine the pipeline's route and feasibility, Dunbar said.

“If they decide to do this and a resident's property is affected, the resident's rights reign supreme,” Dunbar said. “Sunoco cannot come onto your land and install a pipeline without securing a right of way from the property owner.

“Sunoco Logistics can negotiate a price to purchase that right of way from a resident, and they will, but the property owner has the right to sell that land for as much as they want, or the property owner always has the right to say, ‘No.' ”

Dunbar said Sunoco officials hope to use existing rights of way. But even if the company finds an existing right of way on a property, it still must purchase the right to use it from the resident, he added.

The company also contacted homeowners and governing bodies in Penn Township and White Oak.

Commissioner Rich Gray said Sunoco Logistics contacted the township about possibly purchasing several public rights of way.

The surveying and right-of-way negotiations do not involve the state government, but Dunbar offered to serve as a liaison between Sunoco and the residents.

“As far as the state is concerned, I just want to make sure no laws are infringed upon,” Dunbar said. “But the final decision of granting a right of way is left up to the individual property owners.”

Peg Cashdollar, owner of Poochie's Boarding and Grooming on Route 30, said she opposes the idea of Sunoco Logistics' installing the pipeline through her business' land.

“I have animals there, and I don't want to see them interrupted,” Cashdollar said. “I've already made up my mind.”

As the project progresses, Dunbar said, he plans to work with officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection and Public Utilities Commission to make sure the pipeline meets all the state's regulatory requirements.

Dunbar said he plans to set up a public meeting with Sunoco Logistics officials in September.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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