Sunoco files for eminent domain to acquire Penn land for pipeline
Sunoco Pipeline officials are trying to use eminent domain to acquire an easement in the vicinity of a retirement home and assisted-living center in Penn Township for a 50-mile liquid gas-transmission line.
The company last week filed a petition in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court against Quest Realty Partnership, which owns an 89 acres that are bordered by Mellon, Ader and Walton Roads.
Quest also owns an adjacent property at Ader and Walton that has the William Penn Care Center and William Penn Senior Suites and Personal Care.
Court records show the filing is Sunoco's first attempt in the county to take right-of-way against a property owner's wishes for the Mariner East project. Sunoco also initiated cases last week to request court orders enabling it to go onto properties in Sewickley and South Huntingdon townships to perform environmental testing related to the proposed pipeline path.
Sunoco has plans to run its pipeline — to transport ethane and propane as natural gas liquids — along the same route as an existing line owned by Dominion Transmission Inc. Dominion previously got a court order to condemn via eminent domain a portion of Quest's property along Mellon Road in August 2011.
In its filing against Quest, Sunoco said it may use the right of eminent domain because it is considered a “public utility corporation” under Pennsylvania's Business Corporation Law.
But a Harrisburg attorney who represents some Washington County property owners in the pipeline's path says it's not clear to him that Sunoco has the authority for eminent domain.
Under the law Sunoco cites, a company may receive permission to condemn land for pipes transporting natural gas, petroleum or petroleum products but not natural-gas liquids, Michael Faherty said.
“I think it's open to a number of challenges,” Faherty said after reviewing a copy of Sunoco's filing.
Quest's attorney, George Pomper, also disputed Sunoco's authority in a letter earlier this year in which he opposed Sunoco's court filing to conduct environmental testing on Quest's property.
“Sunoco is not a ‘utility' to the best of our knowledge,” Pomper said in the Jan. 24 letter filed in court records. “Sunoco is known as a gasoline retailer and purveyor of motoring products such as wiper blades, tires and convenience store goods.
“The owners of Quest Realty are not aware of any electricity, natural gas, water and the like sold by Sunoco to the public.”
Pomper did not return messages from the Penn-Trafford Star about Sunoco's filing.
Sunoco spokesman Joe McGinn and Sunoco's Greensburg-based attorneys, George Stewart and Dara DeCourcy, also did not respond to requests for comment.
Landowners who oppose eminent domain can raise objections questioning whether a company is properly licensed or if a project could create environmental concerns, said Peter Georgiades, a Pittsburgh attorney who specializes in eminent domain issues. But simply saying “I don't want it” isn't sufficient, he said.
“There's no leg to stand on if you don't want it,” Georgiades said.
As of Monday, Sunoco reached agreements for rights-of-way for 16 Penn Township residential and industrial properties, county records show.
Two months ago, Penn Township commissioners declined to act on Sunoco's offer of a $1,550 payment for an easement on vacant property the township owns behind Smartie Artie's at Zackel's restaurant in Claridge.
Manager Bruce Light he hasn't heard anything from Sunoco since, but the township has received notice that Sunoco applied for an erosion and sedimentation control permit from the Westmoreland Conservation District.
Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penn-Trafford School District identifies fired employees
- Penn Township turnpike ramp not top priority
- Penn Township buying $30K worth of technology upgrades
- Harrison City-Export Road work could extend through September
- Drilling interest could prompt zoning changes in Penn Township