PUC orders hearings on Sunoco Pipeline requests for zoning exemption

Logo Courtesy of the State of Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) remanded zoning requests from Sunoco Pipeline L.P. regarding the construction of buildings around pump and valve-control stations to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for further review this week.

The issue in question is whether the structures that Sunoco wants to build along its 300-mile pipeline that ships natural gas liquids from Marcellus Shale wells in southern Pennsylvania are actual buildings as determined by section 619 of the Municipalities Planning Code. If they are buildings, then the question becomes whether they would have to comply with local zoning ordinances.

The motion by the commission to send the requests to the ALJ notes serious misconceptions about issues addressed in the filings.

“In this proceeding, the Commission has been asked to decide a very narrow question: whether enclosures (walls and a roof) that are built around and over a valve control or pump station should be exempt from municipal zoning regulation,” the commissioners said. “To answer this question, we must decide whether it is in the convenience or welfare of the public for Sunoco to enclose the planned facilities with walls and roofs, even if those enclosures may conflict with local zoning ordinances. Sunoco is not seeking a certificate of public convenience; authorization to build the Mariner East pipeline or any facilities attendant thereto (such as valve control or pump stations); approval of the siting or route of the pipeline; or a finding that the proposed pipeline complies with relevant public safety or environmental requirements. Those issues are outside the scope of this proceeding.”

The remand was approved 4-1, with Commissioner James H. Cawley as the dissenting vote.

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Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

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