Dinniman: Sunoco PUC Case a “David vs. Goliath” Battle

Dinniman: Sunoco PUC Case a “David vs. Goliath” Battle

HARRISBURG, PA — State Senator Andy Dinniman today presented testimony before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commision (PUC) in a petition to prohibit construction of the Mariner East pipeline project in West Whiteland Township. 

“Sunoco showed yet again today that it doesn’t seem to care about our neighborhoods, schools, environment, property rights, water resources, infrastructure, or health and safety. In fact, it doesn’t even want the public to know the full extent of what it’s doing on the Mariner East pipeline project,” Dinniman said. “This company looks at West Whiteland and Chester County as nothing more than an avenue to move hazardous natural gas liquids from point A to point B and then to manufacturers in Europe

“And sadly, more and more it seems like our homes, communities, and potentially our very way of life are standing in the way of them making hefty profits,” he added.

The hearing on Dinniman’s petition for interim emergency relief with the PUC to prohibit construction of Mariner East 2 (ME2) and 2X (ME2X) and the operation of Mariner East 1 (ME1) in West Whiteland was held before PUC Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth H. Barnes. You can read the petition here.

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The hearing will continue on Thursday, May 9 and is expected to include testimony from geologic experts and West Whiteland resident, T.J. Allen.

Monday’s hearing opened with Sunoco’s attorneys, Thomas Sniscak of Hawke, McKeon and Sniscak, LLP and Robert D. Fox of Manko, Gold, Katcher and Fox, LLP, calling for certain information that they termed “commercially sensitive” and relating to “competitive and proprietary information” to be classified as highly confidential and redacted from the public.

Mark Freed of Curtin and Heffner LLP, representing Dinniman, argued that the crux of the petition deals with the unstable geology of the West Whiteland region, that Dinniman was not a competitor to Sunoco, and that questions on the hearing’s scope should err on the side of safety.

Judge Barnes sided with Sunoco and later the public was barred from the courtroom as confidential information was raised during testimony.

Dinniman testified that ME2 and ME2X were being built in a densely populated area and that they come within close proximity to parks, schools, shopping centers, day care centers, senior living communities, main thoroughfares, rail lines, a library, and both residential and commercial wells. He also noted that the 87-year-old ME1 pipeline, which was exposed at a site in West Whiteland in March by a sinkhole that apparently developed as a result ME2 and ME2X drilling, did not meet current PUC regulations in being buried at an adequate depth.

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Earlier, attorneys for Sunoco even floated the idea of agreeing to halt construction of ME2 and ME2X in West Whiteland until July to settle the complaint, only for it later to come out in testimony that the company doesn’t plan to resume construction there until then anyway. Until now, Sunoco’s representatives have indicated that the project would be done by June

During cross-examination, Dinniman fended off attacks from attorneys who attempted to impugn his standing in the case both as a longtime West Whiteland resident and in representing his constituents as an elected state Senator.

“What you’ve created for most of the residents is a David vs. Goliath scenario and I think you’re representing that very well here today,” Dinniman fired back.

Attorneys for both sides agreed to file their final briefs by May 16 and the judge will issue a decision in the following days.

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In addition to the petition for emergency relief, Dinniman has filed a formal legal complaint calling on the PUC to prohibit “the construction and operation of ME2 and ME2X in areas of West Whiteland Township” and “the operation of ME1 in West Whiteland Township…”

That legal process is expected to take more time. You can read the complaint here.

Source: Andrew E. Dinniman (D), Pennsylvania State Senate, Senate District 19

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