Court blocks use of eminent domain on pipeline to pass through Lancaster County

Court blocks use of eminent domain on pipeline to pass through Lancaster County by Ad Crable, April 9, 2014,
York County landowners affected by the same proposed Marcellus Shale pipeline that would run through Clay and West Cocalico townships in Lancaster County have won a court battle blocking Sunoco Logistics from condemning their land. In a March 25 ruling in York County Common Pleas Court, Judge Stephen Linebaugh reaffirmed his previous ruling that Sunoco was a pipeline carrier, and not a public utility, and therefore had no eminent domain powers.

Landowners in 22 areas, including in York, Dauphin and Chester counties, have challenged the company’s use of eminent domain since it was not a public utility corporation. In the first ruling to be handed down in those lawsuits, the York County judge agreed that Sunoco was a pipeline carrier under the Interstate Commerce Act and not a public utility. “While public utilities may also be common carriers, the law provides only that those entities subject to regulation as a public utility can seek the power of eminent domain,” Linebaugh wrote.

Sunoco has since asked the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to expedite its request to be declared a public utility.

In York County’s Fairview Township, the owners of 25 properties challenged Sunoco’s claim to have public utility status. The ruling affects a couple, Ronald and Sallie Cox, who have refused to sell a right of way through a wooded area in front of their home. Abigail Dindo in the office of Harrisburg attorney Michael Faherty, who represents 22 groups of landowners in the Sunoco cases, said none is from Lancaster County. [Emphasis added]

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