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Altoona Mirror: PUC Faces Major Decision On Reversing Flow Of Buckeye Laurel Pipeline

The Altoona Mirror reported on February 19 the Public Utility Commission is facing a major decision on whether to reverse the flow of the Buckeye Laurel Pipeline that runs between the Philadelphia area and Midwest refineries.

Now gasoline, jet fuel and heating oil flows west through the Laurel Pipeline from refineries in the Philadelphia area to points in Western Pennsylvania.

Buckeye is now proposing to end westbound shipments at Eldorado near Altoona and switch the direction of the pipeline on its western end to bring petroleum products in from Midwest refineries to Western Pennsylvania and Altoona.

Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and other Pittsburgh legislators, opposed the reversal plan in comments to the PUC.

“The seriously adverse and reasonably foreseeable consequences of such abandonment of service to the Pittsburgh area starts with higher costs to consumers and businesses small and large,” said Rep. Maher said in comments to the PUC.

Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the Committee,  also opposed to the plan, pointing out problems with trucking petroleum products from Altoona into Western Pennsylvania if the pipeline is reversed.

“Potential alternatives to move fuel over the highways may result in additional congestion on our already busy roadways, increasing wear and tear and causing additional strain on our infrastructure,” said the letter from Senators Yaw and Yudichak.  “Proponents of the reversal say 430 trucks a day to deliver fuel from Altoona would be a good thing. I don’t have to tell you about roads.”

Sheetz, Inc., an Altoona-based retailer of gasoline products through its stores, is also opposed saying reversing the pipeline would give Midwest refineries a monopoly over Western Pennsylvania and increase prices. 

Joining Sheetz in opposition are Giant Eagle stores, Sunoco Logistics (a competing pipeline operator) and Gulf Oil.

On the eastern end of the state, Southeast Pennsylvania legislators see reversing the pipeline as a threat to high-paying jobs and the refineries there.

“These refineries employ well over 1,000 people and support a massive number of indirect jobs. The Commonwealth of PA made large investments over the past few years to ensure these employers stay in business. It would be troubling to allow a pipeline reversal that would threaten all of that hard work and investment,” wrote Rep. Stephen Barrar (R-Chester) in comments to the PUC.

The Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council has petitioned to intervene in the case is monitoring the project and is concerned about whether the proposed reversal is in the public interest, whether equipment or pumping stations will be required along the route in order to reverse the flow, and the impact on people who live near the pipeline if additional equipment is installed.

“Requests that seem small turn out to have a larger public impact later on. That’s why we are taking a look at this,” said Alex Bomstein, litigation attorney for the Council.

The request for reversing the Laurel Pipeline flow is in its initial stages of review before the PUC. 

The first round of comments have been submitted and can be found on the PUC’s docket webpage for the project. [Docket: A-2016-2575829]


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[Posted: Feb. 23, 2017]


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