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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Update on Post about PA Natural Gas Exports

Stream Hugger's post from July 9, 2013, explained how the Corbett administration has enacted laws that clearly favor natural gas drillers, often at the expense residents of the Commonwealth and often those Pennsylvanians who lease their land to drillers for gas exploration or production.  In that post, I cautioned against exporting PA's natural gas oversees because loss of that supply to our domestic market could drive up costs to American consumers.

Two days ago I came across a story from Pittsburgh's Tribune-Review that told of some unwelcome consequences for a few western PA landowners resulting from Sunoco's impending construction of a pipeline to transport natural gas from western PA to a port on the Delaware River south of Philadelphia.  It seems that lawyers for Sunoco Logistics Partners LP discovered a loophole that will allow the company to take private land that they need for their pipeline route by eminent domain.  Why can a corporate giant like Sunoco Logistics Partners force a landowner into selling their land against their will?  In this case, the natural gas export facility will be in Marcus Hook, PA, located on the Delaware River, which has had a fair amount of overseas shipping traffic since the Swedes first took over the native Lenni Lenape village at that location in the 1640s.  As can be seen on the aerial photo below, only the northeastern corner of Marcus Hook is residential.  Most of the borough was occupied by the former Sunoco oil refinery for several decades until only a couple of years ago.  Then Sunoco Logistics Partners bought the former refinery from their parent company to convert it to a major export hub for natural gas.
Marcus Hook, PA (screen shot from Google Maps).

The loophole that allows Logistics Partners to use eminent domain to take whatever property they need for their pipeline route is available because this particular pipeline route from Western PA to Marcus Hook, PA, will cross a state line, making it subject to federal interstate commerce laws.  As you can see in the aerial photo, the Sunoco plant actually straddles the state line with Delaware, and the last one-half mile of the route will be in Delaware.  How convenient for Sunoco Logistics Partners, and how unfortunate for PA landowners in the path of the planned pipeline.  But we cannot blame this situation on the Gov. Corbett's need to pay back the $1 million in campaign contributions that he received from the natural gas industry.  This law was already on the books.

The bottom line here is that Sunoco Logistics Partners will be looking to export as much of PA's natural gas as they are able to load onto outbound ships.  Like I said in my post a couple weeks ago, as more gas leaves the domestic market, the greater risk we domestic users have for losing the low natural gas prices we've been experiencing recently and the less likely we will see a major shift to cleaner-burning natural gas vehicles.  So we will still be dependent on foreign petroleum.  The politicians who sold us on bending over backwards to accommodate natural gas drilling faster than appropriate regulations could be enacted must be held accountable for allowing the U.S.'s energy independence to be shipped overseas.

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