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Mariner East 2: Sunoco’s public utility status trumps local regulation, court says

February 21, 2018

State Impact,

February 20, 2018-

Sunoco won a court battle over the siting of its Mariner East 2 pipeline on Tuesday when a panel of judges ruled against an effort to assert local control over where the pipeline can be built. The Commonwealth Court rejected an appeal by four plaintiffs who argued that Sunoco is violating a zoning ordinance in Chester County’s West Goshen Township that sets the distance a pipeline can be built from houses, and that the ordinance should not be overridden by state regulations.

But the court upheld a county court ruling last fall that the local regulations are pre-empted by the pipeline’s status as a public utility project, as determined by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. “We hold that the Township lacks authority to zone out a public utility pipeline service or pipeline facility regulated by the PUC,” the court wrote in an majority opinion. West Goshen is one of three townships in the Philadelphia suburbs where activists or officials are seeking to enforce ordinances specifying how far a pipeline must be set back from occupied structures.

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