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Pennsylvania rejects bid to reverse flow on Laurel Pipeline

| Thursday, July 12, 2018, 12:33 p.m.
Crew begin site-prep work for a pump station that will aid in the proposed reversal of the Laurel Pipeline, which runs across Pennsylvania.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-REview
Crew begin site-prep work for a pump station that will aid in the proposed reversal of the Laurel Pipeline, which runs across Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania utility regulators are rejecting an application by a Houston-based pipeline operator to reverse the flow of refined fuels on a portion of the Laurel Pipeline.

The Public Utility Commission voted 5-0 Thursday to uphold an administrative law judge’s recommendation that it reject Buckeye Partners’ application to reverse the flow to go west to east on the Altoona-to-Pittsburgh section of the 350-mile pipeline.

Buckeye had sought permission to reverse the flow on that section to bring fuels from Midwest refiners to customers farther east in Pennsylvania.

“While we are waiting to review the commission’s formal order, we respectfully disagree with the decision regarding our market-driven proposal aimed at providing Pennsylvania consumers with expanded access to more affordable fuels, but we will abide by the decision and continue to move forward with our current plans to provide bi-directional service on Laurel PipeLine,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Bi-directional service will enhance competition and provide shippers and suppliers with more options while still increasing access to lower-cost North American-produced fuels for Pennsylvania consumers.”

But Philadelphia-area refiners and in-state distributors had warned that reversing the flow would mean higher prices and less competition that benefits out-of-state refiners and hurts in-state consumers.

Members of the Deny Buckeye coalition, which includes Giant Eagle Get Go, Guttman Energy, Monroe Energy, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, Sheetz and Gulf/Lucknow Highspire Terminals, commended the PUC’s decision.

“Midwest refineries already have access to Pennsylvania markets, but they didn’t want competition,” coalition members said in a press statement. “Pennsylvania refineries have supplied fuel to our commonwealth through the Laurel Pipeline for over a half-century. It is stunning to think a company tried to block our own refineries from serving Pennsylvania.”

Buckeye is seeking federal permission to make service bi-directional along the section.

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