Letter to the Editor:
The current application by Sunoco Pipeline L.P. to exempt itself from local zoning control in its efforts to bring a natural gas pipeline through Chester County should be a serious concern for all Chester County residents.
Sunoco's proposal involves repurposing the current Mariner East Pipeline to deliver Marcellus Shale liquids from Western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook refinery in Delaware County. The project would include changes to existing pumping and valve stations here in Chester County, including a proposed pumping station overhaul in West Goshen Township. Sunoco is seeking an exception from West Goshen Township's zoning ordinances to operate the pumping station in a residential neighborhood. Hundreds of residents of West Goshen Township at last the township's supervisors have voiced real concerns and objections to the project, primarily due to safety concerns.
While that debate continues, the company has also applied to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for recognition as a public utility, which could exempt the project from local zoning control. This is especially concerning. In making this application, Sunoco Pipeline is seeking to remove local residents and their elected representatives from important decisions that affect their health, safety and well-being.
I am pleased that State Sen. Andy Dinniman, who represents the 19th District, which includes West Goshen, has made his objection to Sunoco's application known to the Pennsylvania PUC. Senator Dinniman, a longtime advocate of conservation and open space preservation, has joined with some of his colleagues to assert the need for local control in matters like this, and has correctly pointed out that the right of municipalities to regulate natural gas activity through local zoning ordinances was recently affirmed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
As a former East Whiteland Township supervisor, I understand how difficult and how important issues like this can be. I also know that the first job of any elected official is to guard the health, safety and well-being of those they represent.
I would like to commend Senator Dinniman and the West Goshen supervisors on doing just that, and I would like to encourage the residents of West Goshen to stay active and informed and stand with their elected officials, regardless of party, as this important debate continues. I would also encourage the residents of other municipalities within Chester County to do the same so they are prepared when and if this debate comes to their own community.
Maintaining a healthy, safe place for ourselves, our neighbors and our children is an important issue, and we must all work together to protect our community.
Chair, Chester County Democratic Committee