WEST CHESTER (February 1, 2019) – Sunoco’s temporary easements related to construction of the controversial Mariner East pipeline project are expiring at sites throughout Chester County, state Senator Andy Dinniman said today.
In a lawsuit filed this afternoon in Chester County Common Pleas Court, attorneys for the Hankin Group, a Chester County-based residential, commercial and retail developer, asked a judge to force Sunoco off four of its properties where it is still constructing the pipeline.
The four sites identified in the filing include one at Corner Park Apartments on Boot Road in West Whiteland, one at New Kent Apartments in East Goshen, and two on Stockton Drive and Sierra Drive at Eagleview in Upper Uwchlan.
Residents have raised numerous concerns about pipeline construction at these locations, including environmental, air quality and quality-of-life impacts, given their close proximity to multi-family residential dwellings.
The Complaint contends that Sunoco is in breach of a temporary easement agreement that has elapsed on the Corner Park and New Kent Properties in November and on the Eagleview Properties in January.
In turn, the four-count complaint calls for Sunoco to immediately cease all pipeline construction activities at the sites, remove all construction equipment, pipes, machinery and related materials there, and restore the affected areas to their prior condition.
In addition, Hankin Group is suing Sunoco for trespassing, breach of agreement and damages. According to the lawsuit, Sunoco’ trespass and breach of easement agreements have caused “damage to the ground caused by excavation; damage from excessive runoff caused by removal of grass and foliage; harm to the value of properties; lost rents; loss of use; and diminution in value of properties.”
Dinniman, who has long been a leading and vocal critic of the safety concerns associated with the Mariner East pipeline, said the lawsuit should serve as a reminder to others in the area.
“Temporary easements that Sunoco negotiated nearly two years ago – long before we knew just how significant and how potentially dangerous this project would be – may now be expiring,” Dinniman said. “I encourage residents and businesses in the area to check their easement agreements to see if Sunoco should still be on their land. Sunoco may try to walk all over us, but this is a matter of private property rights.”
Dinniman, who also highlighted news reports that the Mariner East project is adversely impacting local property values, said the lawsuit may serve as a turning point in opposition to the problem-riddled project.
“Hankin Group has always been a first-rate and community-conscious developer in the Chester County region. What we are now seeing are major players in economic development standing up and saying, ‘No, the way this project is going isn’t good for our communities and it isn’t good for business, either.’ Hankin is leading the way and it’s up to others to follow,” Dinniman said.
Dinniman pointed to a notice to vacate that Hankin’s in-house counsel sent to Sunoco on January 23.
In that letter, Michael Malloy, General Counsel for the Hankin Group, wrote, “At the time, Landowner and Grantee negotiated the Easement, Grantee’s representatives vastly underplayed, and consequently, Landowner greatly underestimated the substantial damage that the pipeline installation would cause to the Property, Landowner’s business interest and most importantly, the health, safety and welfare of our community.”
Dinniman also noted that the project’s repeated delays due to public safety and environmental safety violations, which are resulting in the easement expirations, were Sunoco’s own fault.
“Mariner East has basically brought nothing but problems to Chester County. Sunoco appears to be a textbook example of how to be a bad neighbor. And what’s more ironic is that its own apparent hastiness and carelessness seem to have resulted in more and more delays and shutdowns. Sunoco has not only chosen to position itself as an enemy of our residents and communities. It’s been its own worst enemy, too,” he said.