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Upper Bucks township loses appeal against Adelphia Gateway pipeline

The state Environmental Hearing Board ruled that it didn't have jurisdiction over the 84-mile pipeline project.

The proposed site of a compressor station for the Adelphia Gateway pipeline sits a few hundred feet from the former home of Tom Cuce and Rose Merrigan.
The proposed site of a compressor station for the Adelphia Gateway pipeline sits a few hundred feet from the former home of Tom Cuce and Rose Merrigan.Read moreWILLIAM THOMAS CAIN

A rural Bucks County township’s legal challenge to the construction of a natural gas compressor station has been dismissed, another incremental victory for the hotly contested Adelphia Gateway pipeline.

The denial of West Rockhill Township’s appeal by the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board came Sept. 25, coincidentally weeks after the couple that live closest to the site of the proposed station — the project’s most vocal critics — sold their home to the company that is behind the 84-mile pipeline.

West Rockhill has been ground zero for advocacy against the Adelphia Gateway project, which seeks to repurpose an underused oil and natural gas pipeline to run high-pressure natural gas from northwestern New Jersey to a refinery in Marcus Hook. The project, in the works since 2017, is seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“We look forward to moving this important project forward to bring needed natural gas to the Greater Philadelphia region,” Katelyn McNally, a spokesperson for Adelphia Gateway, said in a statement Tuesday. “We will continue our work with regulators, neighbors and local communities to educate them about the project and its benefits.”

The township, about an hour north of Philadelphia, is the chosen site for a 5,625-horsepower compressor station needed for the conversion, which Adelphia plans on installing on a lot in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

Residents have long said that the lot is too small and would expose them to undue health and safety risks. Local and county officials have disputed the station plans as well, saying blueprints fly in the face of zoning ordinances. U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and State Rep. Craig Staats have also weighed in, asking FERC to find an alternative location for the compressor station in a letter sent last winter.

Yet despite public outcry from both residents and officials, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) granted an air-quality permit approval to Adelphia in April, allowing the compressor station’s construction to move ahead.

That decision prompted the appeal from the township, which stated that the DEP “failed its obligation” to protect the environment of its residents.

In its denial, the Environmental Hearing Board wrote that it didn’t have the jurisdiction over the township’s appeal and referred the matter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

A challenge at that level would require the township to first file a case with Commonwealth Court. Greg Lippincott, the township manager, declined to comment Tuesday on whether he and other officials will pursue such a challenge.

Meanwhile, another challenge to the compressor station has been quietly shelved.

Tom Cuce and Rose Merrigan lived closest to the site of the proposed station, roughly 500 feet. They filed an appeal of the DEP’s decision almost immediately and staunchly opposed its construction.

In August, the couple withdrew their appeal. Court records indicate they had reached a settlement with Adelphia Gateway.

Merrigan said Tuesday that the terms of the settlement prevent her from commenting. But county property records indicate Adelphia Gateway purchased the couple’s home on Rich Hill Road days before the appeal was withdrawn for $840,000.

The status of the compressor station’s construction was unclear Tuesday. FERC has not yet issued a decision on the Adelphia Gateway pipeline in its entirety.