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Tina, Lawyer
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Experience:  JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
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When is the final decision going to be made regarding the

Customer Question

When is the final decision going to be made regarding the Property Rights Protection Act in Pennsylvania? Will Sunoco be able to enforce eminent domain on property owners for the Mariner 2 pipelines?
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  RONB-ESQ replied 10 months ago.

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Before I went on disability 2 years ago I served as the manager of property rights for a natural gas pipeline company in Ft Worth, Texas. I am very familiar with eminent domain issues in general and more specifically with typical negotiation strategies, etc. I just spend about 20 minutes reviewing the Property Rights Protection Act and the Mariner 1 & 2 project of Sunoco.

Unless I am overlooking something the addition "Chapter 2" that makes up the Property rights act took effect 120 days after May 6, 2006. In lieu of defining a Public Utility the act directs you to 66 Pa.C.S. § 102 to define a public utility. When you look at that statute it appears that Sunoco could make a valid argument as that the product they are transporting is for the "public use" even though the Mariner 2 project travels outside of Pennsylvania.

Is your question directed more at when court cases will come down deciding for sure legally that Sunoco can utilize eminent domain for the Mariner 2 pipeline. I also read a new article wherein as of August 12, 2015 Sunoco had already initiated eminent domain cases in Pennsylvania. Feel free to expand on your question or ask some follow up question so I fully answer your question.

Regards,

Ron

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
Thanks for your reply Ron!
Apparently there was going to be a decision very shortly ("within weeks as of Dec 14) regarding Sunocos right to employ eminent domain in PA. Do you have any recent info?Also, the pipeline will run through several states so some people believe it is outside of Pennsylvania jurisdiction and eminent domain cannot be used...have you heard of this by chance?
Expert:  RONB-ESQ replied 10 months ago.

I see an article that quotes an attorney named "Faherty" and he states he is representing several landowners against Sunoco. Part of his public statements are directly as you mention that since the line is "interstate" it is regulated by "FERC" Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. I would guess since he says he has several cases pending that may be what you are hearing about and potentially what will be decided in Court regarding those cases or some similar cases. I would think his argument as to FERC would work to maybe give him a win in State Court if the Judge buys that argument, but if Sunoco goes through the lengthy process of getting FERC approval then they really can just ignore all state laws and utilize the eminent domain authority that would come from FERC at the federal level that would trump all state laws and force any court cases into Federal court. This could be fairly effective at not necessarily stopping Sunoco, but may work to severely delay the project. I can speak from experience and say that if he is successful at substantially delaying the project he could ultimatley settle for I would guess 10X what he was seeking as Sunoco would be willing to pay multiple times their early offers just due to the potential economic losses they would face if the project is delayed.

To answer your question though I don't see anything indicating that some final decision will be made within weeks.

If I represented landowners and was successful at getting the cases dismissed and/or decided that FERC regulates and not Pennsylvania I would agree to a confidential settlement with Sunoco that would like I said be multiple times what Sunoco previously offered as they would now pay it not because the land is worth more, but as a business decision they are trying to mitigate the economic losses they would face.

Feel free to ask any follow up questions you have as this is an interesting subject to me and I do want to make sure your question is fully answered. Do note that I will be logging off around 10:30 PM CST and usually back online everyday after 1:00 PM, but tomorrow it will be more around 3:00 PM CST due to an appointment I have.

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
Thanks again Ron...we were originally offered $2500 for the easement but are now at $25000. Our house is 9' from the easement and we dont want two 24" pipelines that close to our house. We have invested alot of money and time in our house (350k). Do you have any suggestions or thoughts on the offer or other ideas! Thanks
Expert:  RONB-ESQ replied 10 months ago.

I do is there anyway you could upload a copy of plat the "survey type document attached to the easement agreement"? I would review that an probably come up with some thoughts.

The company I worked for installed as large as dual 24" steel line built and constructed to Class 4 requirements under the Federal Regulations that dictate those aspects of all pipeline companies. These lines were built to handle maximum pressures of around 1,200 psi natural gas, but generally operated more around 350. I know the stigma that comes with someone placing a line next to your home, but while I would not welcome one where I live I would not be overly concerned about the safety side of things just based on the engineering that typically goes into the design. That is not to say you can't make that as a legitimate reason for seeking additional money. I heard this a hundred times or more that the pipeline will diminish my property (in addition to the impact to the actual dirt and value of the dirt) and though the landowner attorneys could not get an expert that could testify to that or quantify those losses I heard it and a juror would hear that as a factor in setting a value.

I am going to be logging off now, but if you can scan the plat and attach it on your side of the website by clicking on the paper clip and selecting the file on your computer I will respond tomorrow after I get back from my appointment.

Regards,

Ron

Expert:  RONB-ESQ replied 10 months ago.

You might also tell me if you are in a residential area or rural and if residential is it real dense such as small lot residential sub division? Note that the file you post can be viewed by others so if it has your name or address and you don't want that visible you might mark through the copy with a black marker. Really just the other experts here and website staff can see it I don't think it is open to the public. If for some reason you need to keep it confidential I can charge an extra amount and have you email it to me.

Expert:  RONB-ESQ replied 10 months ago.

This is very much an area of my expertise and I think I can assist you. Did you have problems uploading the plat? If you can't upload we can just cover the details here. One question would be what is the total square footage of the easement? What is the square footage of the temporary easement. In the easement is there language that the temporary easement terminates or is it silent as to when the temporary easement terminates? If it does not terminate you are entitled to extra money. How close is the line going to be to your home. You could just indicate the distance from your home to the center of the easement. Though they don't have the lay it in the middle they typically do. How wide is the easement 25' or larger? Again I would want to know if this is rural or residential as that would affect the per square foot price. Where are you in negotiations? Have you got anything that says something like final offer?

Ron

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