Sunoco sues Portage residents

Map courtesy of Sunoco Logistics

Map courtesy of Sunoco Logistics

Madeleine Winer

Sunoco Logistics is suing two Portage County landowners after they did not comply with existing contracts that would allow the company to construct a pipeline that would carry petroleum and diesel fuel through Portage County.

The company is suing Mark and Patricia Simonetti of 2301 Palm Road in Suffield Township and Alfred Honn and his family of 3255 Randolph Road in Randolph Township, both in southern Portage County. Sunoco is asking landowners to follow 80-year-old easements to allow the company access to the land so Sunoco can install a new pipeline as part of its Allegheny Access project.

Jeffrey Shields, spokesperson for Sunoco on the Allegheny Access project, said Sunoco does not comment on pending lawsuits. He said Sunoco Logistics offers “fair market value or above” to landowners where it needs easements, or permission to use residents’ land.

He said the Allegheny Access project uses existing rights-of-way by using public land or properties that have existing easements. However, there are some exceptions.

“In cases where negotiations fail with the property owner, condemnation is our last legal option,” he said. “When it is used, fair market value must still be paid to the landowner. It is permitted by state law for common carrier interstate pipelines.”

The company filed the lawsuits in January, asking the court to enforce existing easements, which were signed in 1930. The easements say Sunoco has the right to build additional pipelines on the property.

The Allegheny Access pipeline, which is projected to be completed in mid-2014, is to run parallel to Route 224 from Mogadore through Deerfield Township in southern Portage County. It will be able to deliver 85,000 barrels of gas and diesel fuel per day to eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

The Honns’ two parcels of land under dispute have a 6-inch wide pipeline and 10-inch wide pipeline running across them. Sunoco’s predecessors gave $50 to the property owners for each pipeline added.

A 10-inch wide pipeline is also installed under Simonetti’s property. Sunoco’s predecessors agreed to pay them $30 for each additional line constructed.

The Simonettis and Honns have not yet responded to Sunoco’s complaints, according to court records.

The 74-mile Allegheny Access pipeline will run adjacent to the 10-inch wide Mariner West pipeline that delivers ethane from the Marcellus Shale in western Pennsylvania.

The Mariner West route currently contains an active 10-inch wide pipeline. A six-inch wide pipeline on the Mariner West route that had carried refined products will be removed and replaced by the 12-inch Allegheny Access line.

The Allegheny Access project will also include activating a 12-inch wide refined products line and a 6-inch wide inactive line in Suffield Township as well as a 6-inch wide refined products line in western Portage County.

Portage County commissioners hosted a meeting Jan. 16 with representatives from Sunoco Logistics, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Residents asked Sunoco questions about the safety of the pipeline after being told it would not carry harmful products.

Portage County Commissioner Kathleen Chandler said some residents felt they were being misled after they received an easement from Sunoco that said the pipeline would carry more than liquid petroleum products.

“People felt they weren’t being dealt with in a straightforward manner.” she said. “People have a great deal of concern about it. They want to be educated. They want to know what’s happening. They want to know what their rights are.”

While Chandler called the meeting “useful,” Portage County residents gathered again Feb. 15 in Randolph Township for an informational meeting on pipelines, easements and property owners’ rights at the Randolph Community Center.

Shields said Sunoco Logistics installed its first pipeline in Portage County in the 1930s, when it was known as Sun Oil Co.

“Ohio is, and has been since the late 1800s, a central hub for refining and transport of petroleum products,” Shields said.

“The energy industry in Ohio requires pipes to move refined petroleum products like gasoline, diesel and heating oil from refineries in various parts of the state and liquefied petroleum products [ethane, propane, butane] from the Utica and Marcellus Shale areas. Portage County is one of many counties in Ohio and across the country where petroleum pipelines are located.”

Portage County residents have expressed concerns at both meetings about how the environment will be affected in Portage County.

Shields said all of Sunoco’s pipelines are constantly monitored at its control center in Reading, PA. He said corrosion detection devices are inserted into pipelines every five years to detect for nicks and scrapes.

Although Sunoco Logistics is still finalizing the details and land rights for the project, Shields said the company would be in contact with residents to inform them about the pipeline’s construction schedule, which will begin after winter ends.

Contact Madeleine Winer at [email protected].