by Theresa Oo
Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East Project plans to build two new natural gas liquid pipelines passing through 17 counties in Pennsylvania. These pipelines would stretch 350 miles from Scio, Ohio to Marcus Hook near Philadelphia.
According to Ellen Gerhart, a landowner of Huntingdon County who is against Sunoco building a pipeline on approximately three acres of their property, Sunoco Logistics is claiming that they are building these pipelines for the benefit of Pennsylvania when facts seem to contradict this claim.
“Harry Alexander, one of the Sunoco vice-presidents who testified at our eminent domain hearing, stated that Pennsylvania uses between 22,000 and 27,000 barrels of propane a day. The Mariner East 1, which is an 85-year-old, eight-inch pipeline, is stated to carry 77,000 barrels per day, which more than meets the needs of Pennsylvania,” said Gerhart.
“Jeff Shields, spokesperson for Sunoco Logistics, has admitted that these products are destined for overseas markets. In my opinion, the pipelines are being used for profit for a private company, not a public utility,” said Gerhart.
“Initially, Sunoco Logistics’ land agent quoted a ‘fair’ price for our three acres. He stated that Sunoco had the right of eminent domain and could just take the property, but in ‘good faith’ they were making us this offer. We refused. The next day, Sunoco made an offer that was more than twice what they had originally offered. We refused again,” said Gerhart.
The environmental consequences from the pipeline have been the reason for Gerhart’s refusal. “Clear-cutting would occur on a steep slope next to the pond. Erosion from the slope will seriously impact our pond. In addition, the proposed ‘temporary’ workplace will be built over the streams and springs that feed into our pond. The ground in this area will be compacted, destroying the wetlands upon which it would be built,” said Gerhart.
Neil Pelkey, associate professor of environmental science and studies, said, “The most severe damage will come from spraying herbicides and pesticides on the pipeline, which will continue for the life of the pipeline. This will also change stream ecosystems, wipe out wild pollinators, and lead to increased human health issues.”
Elise Gerhart, daughter of Ellen Gerhart, is also fighting against the Sunoco pipeline. “Sunoco Logistics is trying to build the Mariner East pipelines to ship NGLs across Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania to an export terminal on the Delaware River. The company has existing contracts with European petrochemical companies (Ineos and Borealis). Each Ineos cargo ship will carry 173,000 barrels of ethane to Europe per trip. They are not building these pipelines to meet some need of Pennsylvanians or any other Americans for fuel,” said Elise Gerhart.
Senior Brad Spayd, a member of JC Divest, said, “I don’t think Sunoco doing this is a good thing. My understanding of it is that the natural pipeline is for domestic use. Not to mention, it is extracting more fossil fuel. This building of pipelines would be bad for climate change.”
Gerhart said, “Sunoco Logistics has already signed contracts with petro-chemical plants in Europe and was originally scheduled to begin shipping by the end of the year. Mariner East 1 has apparently already begun transporting natural gas liquids to Marcus Hook. Construction on the Mariner East 2 has not yet begun, because Sunoco does not have all the permits needed to begin construction,” said Gerhart.
“Because Sunoco Logistics has been granted eminent domain by the Huntingdon County court, the company could begin clear-cutting. Although they cannot bring in equipment (because of the lack of permits) they could possibly send in tree cutting crews on foot,” said Gerhart.
When asked if there are also others who are against Sunoco’s act, Gerhart said, “Primarily through social media and the Internet, we have been able to network with other landowners who are directly affected by the pipelines. We have also been able to network with others who are concerned about the environment and the negative impact of both fracking and pipelines.”
“There are thousands of affected landowners. Some were intimidated by Sunoco’s threat of eminent domain and signed easement agreements right away, but there are also some opposing the pipelines and refusing to negotiate,” said Gerhart.
There are also allegations of actions taken to ensure the pipeline. “A farmer in Cumberland County has had the company destroy his crops, pollute his creeks, and sneak onto his property at night. Another landowner in Huntingdon County has had Sunoco abuse an existing easement by clearcutting 65 feet of trees where they had a 10 foot easement. When Sunoco approaches landowners for the purpose of gaining new easements, they pretty much start the bullying from the beginning,” said Elise Gerhart.
“Sunoco would like to claim that there are very few opponents, but the opposition is becoming more public and more vocal. Completion of the pipeline is not as cut and dry as Sunoco would like the public to believe,” said Gerhart.
“In Chester County, Pa. there are 33 ongoing cases. People who are able are fighting all across the state, and Sunoco’s ability to use eminent domain will ultimately have to be decided in an appellate court because either landowners or Sunoco will appeal superior court decisions. There’s still a long legal battle ahead,” said Gerhart.
“But what’s important is, just like those families fighting in courts, it’s all about people power. We are taking a stance against really powerful fossil fuel companies because we don’t want to see a world that is completely wrecked by climate change,” said Spayd.
“Contact the commissioners,” said Pelkey. “Sunoco is a for profit company doing their business, the problem lies in the state agencies who should be protecting the people and resources of the commonwealth.”
JC Divest has also taken part in raising awareness. “Our goal is to have Juniata College remove its investment on fossil fuels. So we’ve done a lot of things like table petitions. We’ve made T-shirts. We’ve met with the Board of Trustees multiple times. We have like a big proposal we gave them before, different letters, lots of things,” said Spayd.
According to Gerhart, students at Juniata would be able to help make a difference. “Phone calls and emails can be made to state representatives, asking them to take a stand for Pennsylvania landowners and the environment against the fracking industry giants pushing through Pennsylvania at the expense of everyone who lives here. Students can also offer direct support to landowners by getting in contact with Juniata Watershed People Before Pipelines on Facebook,” said Gerhart.
Categories: Volume 97 Issue 8 News