This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website and the Delaware County Daily Times‘ website.
WEST GOSHEN — After tabling the vote in the special April meeting, the West Goshen Township Board of Supervisors made the settlement agreement with Sunoco Pipeline, L.P., the first priority at its May meeting Wednesday night.
With a unanimous 5-0 vote, the board approved to accept and sign the settlement agreement regarding the Boot Road pumping station.
“These safety agreements that we’ve been able to reach (in the settlement agreement) really helps improve the safety of the pipeline as it comes through West Goshen,” said Ted Murphy, vice-chair of the board. “This is something that is unusual. It’s very extraordinary and what Sunoco has agreed to here preserves the status quo. It’s the best deal we can get.”
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It has been an ongoing, year-long process between the township and Sunoco. On March 21, 2014, Sunoco filed a petition with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission requesting approval of construction of a building on property Sunoco bought to house facilities for the nearby pumping station.
The construction and use of the pumping station are all part of Sunoco’s Mariner East project, a pipeline project to deliver propane and ethane from Western Pennsylvania eastward to Marcus Hook, where it will then be distributed elsewhere.
The Boot Road pumping station is part of the Mariner East Phase I project.
After objections were raised by both the township and the formed Concerned Citizens of West Goshen Township (CCWGT), Sunoco agreed to meet with both parties.
The township hired lawyers and Richard Kuprewicz, a nationally recognized expert in the field of liquids pipeline safety, and what came about is the settlement agreement between all three parties.
The agreement, in summary, allows Sunoco to build a vapor combustion unit to contain a pilot light or flame at the pumping station, calls for all above-ground facilities to be maintained on the present pumping station except for a remote operated valve station on the adjacent 4.3-acre property owned by Sunoco — the rest of that property is to be left untouched — and will install five automatic shutoff valves and two remotely operated valves upstream and downstream from Boot Road.
In return for these concessions, the township and the CCWGT agree to not initiate any action or proceeding claiming that the reconfigured pumping station violates any township zoning or land development ordinances; they will not contest, dispute or protest Sunoco for lack of public utility status; and will not file or join in any complaint against the safety of Sunoco’s service or facilities.
In addition, Sunoco will provide the township manager with immediate notice of any condition changes requiring remediation for any of the Mariner East pipeline and within 30 days of the settlement’s effective date, Sunoco will consult with township officials concerned land development plans.
“With (the agreement), we get five automatic shutoff valves, which are not required to be there now,” Murphy said. “That’s a big safety improvement. Without the agreement in place, (Sunoco) would have been able to develop that entire 4.2-acre tract. That restrictive covenant stays with the property. It’s in place forever now.”
The agreement concerns the Mariner East Phase I project only. It leaves the township open to check the safety of any other development plans down the road.
“We have the ability with any future developments that they plan for there, we have the ability to have an expert come in again, like Mr. Kuprewicz, to review all the plans and make sure that it’s safe and in compliance with federal requirements,” Murphy said. “If we have any questions about that after the review by the engineer, we could still challenge it.”
If Sunoco fails to construct and operate facilities within the township, or fails to operate in a manner consistent with the safety, design and engineering laid out in the settlement agreement, the township has the right to file a complain against Sunoco with the Public Utility Commission or a local, state or federal government agency.
The township was the last party to sign the agreement, as both Sunoco and the CCWGT signed it a month beforehand.
The biggest concern after the special April meeting by the supervisors was that after tabling the vote, Sunoco had the option of walking away from the agreement and proceeding how they wished with the pumping station and the additional acreage.
However, after the township got in contact with Sunoco and both sides talked more, Sunoco allowed the vote to be extended to May’s meeting.
“Our attorneys reached out to Sunoco with some of the concerns that we did have,” Murphy said. “We were assured by our attorneys that they were not going to walk away. We had some questions posed by our attorneys to them regarding the language of the agreement. There weren’t any changes to it. We were satisfied with the language of the agreement and the questions we had were clarified.”
Though tabling the vote was a risky move to take at that time, it ended up being for the best as the supervisors were able to sit down and look over once again all the concerns expressed by residents.
“The transcript is 132 pages long (from April’s special meeting),” Murphy said. “We wanted to have to sit down and view those and go over everything and make sure that this agreement was in the best interest of the residents of the township because of the safety issues that are there.”
With the settlement agreement signed by all parties, Sunoco will proceed with its plans laid out in the agreement.
But that doesn’t mean West Goshen won’t keep watch over them when it’s completed.
“Residents did raise concern over air quality and water quality,” Murphy said. “As Sunoco puts in a flare tower, if there is an issue with air or water quality, we have the ability to do testing in the ground and air. If that becomes necessary, we will do it.”