By way of background, Sunoco is in the process of constructing the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which is intended to traverse the entirety of Pennsylvania. Sunoco is operating pursuant to a certificate of public convenience issued by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (Pa. PUC), which authorizes it to transport natural gas liquids from Western Pennsylvania, and nearby West Virginia and Ohio, to points in Eastern Pennsylvania, terminating at the Marcus Hook facility in eastern Pennsylvania. In connection with this project, the Pa. PUC found that the proposed pipeline and the service it would provide was a public utility service, and that Sunoco was a public utility corporation subject to Pa. PUC regulation as a public utility. Previously, Pennsylvania courts affirmed Sunoco’s status as a public utility and the pipeline as a public utility service, see In re Sunoco Pipeline, 143 A.3d 1000 (Pa. Commw. 2016) (en banc), appeal denied 164 A.3d 485 (Pa. 2016).
The Mariner East pipeline has proven to be controversial and has been the subject of numerous lawsuits on a variety of different procedural, regulatory, environmental, and other substantive and legal grounds. Most recently, challenges to the pipeline’s projected construction path were brought on the basis of local zoning ordinances, which were the subject of the latest appeals to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Two cases involving similar challenges based on local zoning ordinances were filed and appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which in both instances, ruled against the local zoning ordinances, concluding that they could not be applied to bar the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in accordance with its certificated route.