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About Michael Faherty

Attorney Michael F. Faherty leads Faherty Law Firm in the advocacy of property rights in providing eminent domain law services to Pennsylvania property owners. He provides legal representation to property owners. He provides legal representation to property owners in conjunction with his service as the only Pennsylvania representative to the Owners’ Counsel of America. The Owners’ Counsel is the national association of leading eminent domain attorneys and property rights advocates.

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Condemnations

Property owners in the path of the Williams Company Atlantic Sunrise pipeline are now subject to condemnation court filings. The litigation requests approval of the taking of property rights by eminent domain and quick possession of those rights. Property owners may have weak challenges to the condemnations, but continue with rights to just compensation. Williams Company appraisals have valued incorrect property rights to facilitate negotiation of minimal settlements. Owners are encouraged to contact experienced eminent domain counsel to obtain just compensation.

Access sought to 13 properties

A Texas gas pipeline company is seeking a preliminary injunction to obtain immediate possession of rights of way over 13 properties in four counties for the Atlantic Sunrise project.

The motion filed Wednesday in U.S. Middle District Court by Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Co. seeks access to four properties in Lebanon County, five in Columbia County, three in Northumberland and one in Schuylkill.

The 13 are among the 16 central Pennsylvania properties over which Transco seeks to obtain rights of way through condemnation.

Atlantic Sunrise is a $3 billion project that will increase the capacity to transport natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

It includes about 200 miles of new pipelines, some of which would pass through midstate, plus new compressor, meter and regulator stations in Pennsylvania.

Minor modifications to compressor stations and other work in Virginia, Maryland and North and South Carolina are part of the project recently approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Transco says it needs access to the properties by March 20 to do field surveys that are part of the pre-construction process. The lack of access could delay start of construction a full year, it says.

Written by: John Beauge | PennLive

By |February 24th, 2017|Categories: Condemnation, Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

Environmental Groups Challenge Pipeline Approval

The recent Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection approval of the Mariner East 2 pipeline has been challenged by environmental groups. Sunoco Pipeline is progressing with construction while the appeal is considered. Similarly, construction is progressing while the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court considers the Property Rights Protection Act challenges to the power of eminent domain. Construction is projected to happen on those properties where Sunoco Pipeline has purchased easements or obtained possession of property rights. A Commonwealth Court decision on the Property Rights Protection Act may be issued in middle to late 2017.

Environmentalists oppose permits for Pa. pipeline

Environmental advocacy groups are trying to halt construction of a $2.5 billion natural gas liquids pipeline across southern Pennsylvania while they appeal newly issued permits that they say would unleash massive and irreparable damage to the state’s environment and residents.

In filings Monday, three groups said the state Department of Environmental Protection had approved incomplete and legally flawed permit applications for Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East 2 pipeline hours earlier “in response to heavy and sustained political pressure.” Supporters view the project as crucial to helping capitalize on the Marcellus Shale natural gas reservoir, where producers say a lack of pipeline infrastructure is depressing prices and demand.

The permits approved water crossings and earth moving for a 306-mile section of 20-inch pipeline that can move 275,000 barrels per day, according to Sunoco Logistics. The project is designed to move propane, butane and possibly ethane from Marcellus Shale producers in southwestern Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and West Virginia to Sunoco Logistics’ Marcus Hook processing and distribution facility near Philadelphia.

It has the support of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature, business groups and labor unions.

According to the environmental advocacy groups, construction would deforest more than 1,500 acres, cross hundreds of streams and wetlands and damage farmland and aquifers that provide drinking water.

The Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Net- work and Mountain Watershed Association did not elaborate on the political pressure in the filings to a state board that hears appeals of the department’s actions. A hearing was scheduled for Thursday.

In an interview Tuesday, Maya van Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network said it was clear from the groups’ reviews of documents in the case, meetings and conversations that Wolf’s office and the department’s central office were pressuring inspectors to stop asking detailed questions and wrap up.

“Governor Wolf wants to see these pipelines rushed out the door to make sure they happen,” van Rossum said.

Wolf said Tuesday that he had not applied pressure to approve the pipeline project. He said he had only asked the department to stick to the timeline that it said it had needed to review the permit applications. “That’s not political pressure, that’s actually trying to manage an organization,” said Wolf, who was supported by environmental advocacy groups in his 2014 campaign.

Wolf said he was convinced that the department had done its due diligence, and that the pipeline would ultimately have a net benefit, despite the potential environmental impact. “The net benefit of having jobs, the net benefit of having clean sources of energy with gas is big for Pennsylvania,” Wolf said.

He also echoed industry officials, pointing out that prices at one of the major trading hubs for Marcellus Shale gas remain below prices at other big hubs. “We need a distribution system and this is part of it,” he said.

Written by: Marc Levy – Associated Press | Published in Patriot News

By |February 23rd, 2017|Categories: Condemnation, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

Sunoco Pipeline Obtains Environmental Approval

While Sunoco Pipeline has obtained regulatory approval, Sunoco continues to seek property rights. Faherty Law Firm continues to contest eminent domain power based on the Pennsylvania anti – Kelo statute, the Property Rights Protection Act. Oral argument is scheduled for March 6  before the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg. Mike Faherty will ask the Court to review whether the public is the primary and paramount beneficiary of the project.

PA grants final permits for $2.5B Mariner East pipeline

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Monday approved water-crossing and sedimentation permits for the hotly contested Mariner East 2 pipeline, which would transport natural-gas liquids across Pennsylvania to a terminal in Marcus Hook.

The permits are believed to be the final regulatory hurdle for Sunoco Logistics to begin construction of the pipeline, though environmental groups that oppose the project, including the Clean Air Council and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, are expected to appeal their approval to the Environmental Hearing Board.

DEP conducted five hearings and spent more than 20,000 hours reviewing the permit applications and responding to 29,000 comments on the project, Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement. Approval was delayed last year after DEP rejected the application to address “technical deficiencies.”

Sunoco Logistics hailed the project, which it said would create an infrastructure system that is critical to the state’s economic future.

“Sunoco Logistics can now begin construction throughout Pennsylvania in accordance with the permits, with estimated completion in the third quarter of this year,” the company said. “Mariner East 2 will require more than 8,000 construction workers to build the pipeline and related facilities.”

The Mariner East project links shale-gas producers in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to Sunoco’s Marcus Hook Industrial Complex, a former refinery site on the Delaware River. The $2.5 billion project was backed by the Corbett and Wolf administrations, along with labor and business interests. But it has aroused opposition from adjacent landowners and environmental groups.

The project’s first phase, using an existing underground pipeline repurposed to deliver up to 70,000 barrels of natural-gas liquids a day, is already operating.

Sunoco wants to build one or two new adjacent pipelines as part of the Mariner East II project. Altogether, the pipelines could carry up to 675,000 barrels a day.

Written by: Andrew Maykuth | phillynews.com

By |February 14th, 2017|Categories: Condemnation, Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

FERC Approval of Atlantic Sunrise

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the Williams Partners proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. Williams is expected to conclude property acquisition negotiations or proceed with condemnation filings in February, 2017.

Pipeline clears federal hurdle

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has signed off on the contested Atlantic Sunrise project, which calls for the expansion of a natural gas pipeline that would funnel natural gas from the Marcellus Shale regions through the midstate and across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

The commission issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Williams Partners LP, placing the Oklahoma-based energy group behind the $3 billion project another step closer toward breaking ground on the expansion.

The energy company’s plans call for about 200 miles of new natural gas pipelines, some of which would pass through the midstate.

Williams Partners still must garner approvals from the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State Historic Preservation Office.

The decision marked the final clearance Williams Partners needed from FERC, which had already all but given its blessing to the project when it released an environmental impact statement late last year.

FERC said in late December that environmental damage linked to the project would be “reduced to less-than-significant levels” through Williams’ mitigation efforts.

The Atlantic Sunrise project also calls for the development of two new compressor stations and other infrastructure to help push gas from the Marcellus Shale fields to markets along the eastern seaboard.

Once complete, newly extracted gas would flow into Williams’ existing 10,500-mile Transco pipeline that runs from New York to the Gulf of Mexico.

Written by: Eric Veronikis | Patriot News

By |February 6th, 2017|Categories: Condemnation, Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

FERC Approval Statement re Atlantic Sunrise

On December 30, 2016 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement endorsing the Williams Company Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. The Commission stated: “FERC staff determined that construction and operation of the project would result in some adverse environmental impacts, but impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of Transco’s proposed and FERC staff’s recommended mitigation measures.” Williams continues to buy options and easements for the large natural gas pipeline. The statement foreshadows final federal approval. Williams anticipates the start of mainline construction in mid-2017. Faherty Law Firm is negotiating revised easement terms and compensation for landowners.

Read FERC’s Opinion on the Final Environmental Impact Statement here.

By |January 10th, 2017|Categories: Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

Delay of Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline

The Federal Protection Environmental Protection Agency in July of 2016 recommended further environmental study and FERC consideration of alternative routes. This resulted in a delay in the projected issuance of the final Environmental Impact Statement to December 30, 2016 with expected FERC approval of the project on March 30, 2017. Williams Partners continues to purchase land options and purchase easements.

Williams delays Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project

Two pipelines fueled by Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom – the Atlantic Sunrise and Mariner East 2 pipelines – are expected to bisect Lebanon County. Here’s what you need to know.

Pipeline won’t be completed until 2018.

Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams Partners is delaying the target date for its proposed Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline until 2018 after federal regulators delayed their approval process.

The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline would bisect Lebanon County from north to south while carrying natural gas from Marcellus Shale-rich northeastern Pennsylvania to the Transcontinental Pipeline (Transco) that covers the east coast.

Williams Partners previously targeted the project to be fully in-service by late 2017, but that was before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission moved back its schedule for a final Environmental Impact Statement for the project.  The final EIS – part of the regulatory process needed for Williams to build the pipeline – will now be completed by Dec. 30 instead of Oct. 21 as previously announced, according to a FERC notice.

Williams Partners now expects to have Atlantic Sunrise providing partial service by late 2017 and to have the pipeline fully in-service by mid-2018, according to a timeline on the company’s website.

The draft EIS released by FERC in May was favorable for Williams Partners, concluding that the pipeline’s adverse environmental impacts would be “reduced to less-than-significant levels” through mitigation efforts proposed by Williams Partners and by FERC. But the Environmental Protection Agency pushed back in July, recommending further studies and asking FERC to consider alternatives to the currently proposed route.

Anti-pipeline pressure groups Lebanon Pipeline Awareness and Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County recently joined 15 other organizations in a request for FERC to revise the draft EIS. They blasted FERC for not waiting to receive information about how the project will impact wetlands and accused it of failing to disclose key information in a manner that inhibits public participation.

In its notice, however, FERC explained the delay in producing the final EIS as based on additional information filed by Transco. It now plans to first issue a General Conformity Determination followed by a 30-day comment period. The final EIS is scheduled for issuance on Dec. 30, with a March 30, 2017 final federal decision on authorizing the project.

“We continue to work with the FERC, state and other federal permitting agencies to secure the necessary approvals to construct this critical infrastructure project and connect consumers along the East Coast with abundant, cost-effective Pennsylvania natural gas supplies,” said Rory Miller, senior vice president of Williams Partners’ Atlantic-Gulf operating area, in a Williams Partners news release announcing the delay.

Published in Lebanon Daily News | Staff report

By |December 22nd, 2016|Categories: Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

PA Supreme Court Protects Property Rights

A Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision provides very strong support of private property rights. It rejected an attempt at use of eminent domain for  primarily private, not public, purposes. The decision continues the long established consistency of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court protection of private property rights.

Eminent domain has again been reaffirmed to only be for a valid, and primarily, public purpose. The attached decision in the matter known as Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provides great support and encouragement to those challenging the Sunoco Pipeline attempt to use eminent domain for the Mariner East 2 proposed pipeline which would ship ethane across Pennsylvania and to Europe. The decision very strongly suggests that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will reject the use of eminent domain for the Mariner East 2 pipeline(s) which would have less public purpose than the underground gas storage proposal reviewed in the attached decision. The most pertinent language is found at pages 78 – 86. Pennsylvania property owners should rejoice in the conviction of our unanimous Pennsylvania Supreme Court support of the foundational property rights in Pennsylvania over deceptive project proposals for private enterprise. Pennsylvania property owners could strongly cheer our Pennsylvania Supreme Court courage in again reaffirming our established Constitutional property rights as sacrosanct vs. private enterprise infrastructure.

Read the entire Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision below:

Robinson Township v Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – Majority Opinion

Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – Concurring and Dissenting Opinion – Justice Saylor

Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – Concurring and Dissenting Opinion – Justice Baer

By |September 30th, 2016|Categories: Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

Faherty Law Firm to Appeal Mariner East 2 Ruling

The Commonwealth Court has affirmed a Cumberland County ruling which approved eminent domain power for the Mariner East 2 pipeline. Michael Faherty represented the three involved property owners. Faherty Law Firm is requesting review by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. That court has issued past decisions which have strongly protected the property rights of Pennsylvania citizens. Some of these cases were cited by the Honorable P. Kevin Brobson of the Commonwealth Court in his dissenting opinion.

The entire Commonwealth Court decision may be found by clicking here.


Split Pa. court hands property owners a loss in fight against land seizures for Sunoco pipeline

A sharply-divided Commonwealth Court panel on Thursday dealt three Cumberland County couples a blow in their attempts to block Sunoco Logistics from seizing part of their properties for the Mariner East II natural gas transmission pipeline.

The court majority did that by upholding county President Judge Edward E. Guido’s decision issued last year to dismiss preliminary objections R. Scott and Pamela Martin and Douglas and Lyndsey Fitzgerald, both of North Middleton Township, and Harvey and Anna Nickey of Lower Mifflin Township filed opposing Sunoco’s bid to take their land through eminent domain.

“I think it’s a sad day for Pennsylvania landowners and the Pennsylvania Constitution,” Michael F. Flaherty, the attorney for the property owners, said of the ruling.

Sunoco Logistics praised the state court ruling, saying it affirms lower court decisions that the Mariner East II project will provide a public service to Pennsylvanians.

“We have always worked with landowners to reach mutually acceptable agreements, and pursued legal proceedings only in those instances where an agreement could not be reached,” the firm said in a statement. “We believe negotiation is better than litigation, and that landowners receive more favorable terms and compensation as a result of easements that are negotiated rather than litigated.”

In the Commonwealth Court majority opinion, Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer supported Guido’s finding that Mariner East II is both and interstate and intrastate pipeline, with the section running through Pennsylvania falling under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Utility Commission.

She backed Guido’s finding that Sunoco is therefore a “public utility corporation” recognized by the PUC and so has the power to condemn land for the pipeline on grounds that it would provide public utility service in Pennsylvania.

The PUC already has determined a public need for the pipeline, so Guido had no grounds to review challenges the landowners made to that finding, Jubelirer wrote.

Two of the seven state judges who heard the case – Judges P. Kevin Brobson and Patricia A. McCullough – filed dissenting opinions, however, questioning whether Sunoco legitimately has state-bestowed condemnation powers for Mariner East II.

McCullough voiced concern that Sunoco may be trying to invoke eminent domain “for its exclusively private benefit.”

“Private ownership of property is a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution…a right that is zealously protected under the Pennsylvania Constitution as well,” McCullough wrote. “The majority decision, I fear, will gravely undermine that right.”

Brobson called Guido’s finding in the case “incomplete.” He said the matter should be sent back to county court to determine when providing PUC-authorized service “is the true goal of taking the property owners’ land.”

The Mariner East II project is to run from Washington County across Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook in Delaware County. The pipeline is to extend into Ohio and West Virginia as well. It is to have off-load points in Pennsylvania, but its products also are to be shipped out of state.

Sunoco is proposing to permanently take 1.5 acres of the Martin’s land on Longs Gap Road; 0.14 acres of the Fitzgerald’s land along Pine Creek Drive and 0.7 acres of the Nickey’s property off the Blain McCrea Road.

The property owners could appeal the Commonwealth Court ruling to the state Supreme Court. Faherty said he is “strongly recommending” they do so.

In March, Faherty argued before Commonwealth Court that because Mariner East II passes through several states and would carry hazardous liquid byproducts of natural gas production used to make plastics it falls under federal regulations that bar land condemnations.

This story has been updated with comments from attorney Michael F. Flaherty and Sunoco Logistics.

Written by:  Matt Miller | PennLive

Graphic: The Mariner East II pipeline would cut through Cumberland County as it courses across souther Pennsylvania. (Sunoco Logistics)

By |July 19th, 2016|Categories: Condemnation, Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

Atlantic Sunrise Alternatives

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency has requested that FERC more fully explore two alternatives to the proposed pipeline. Williams Company is expected to provide additional information to FERC to support the existing pipeline proposal.

Faherty Law Firm represents many property owners threatened by the pipeline proposal. The law firm has negotiated easement terms which are much more favorable to the property owners. Settlements have been reached with increased compensation.

PA raises concerns about Atlantic Sunrise pipeline

By Marie Cusick | StateImpact

The Environmental Protection Agency is raising concerns about the potential impacts of the proposed Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline.

In a letter sent last week to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the EPA criticizes FERC’s draft environmental impact statement, which found the pipeline would not create significant adverse impacts.

Although FERC is charged with making the final decision about whether the project moves forward, the commission did not fully examine alternative options to building a 197.7 miles of new pipeline, according to the EPA. The agency recommends further study on whether new construction might be avoided by expanding existing infrastructure, or expanding the proposed PennEast pipeline.

“Reasonable alternatives were not carried forward for detailed consideration,” writes Jeffery Lapp, Associate Director of the Office of Environmental Programs for EPA Region 3. “Without additional analysis of alternatives, it is not clear that the preferred alternative is the only one to meet the stated purpose of need.”

The EPA letter was good news for anti-pipeline activists who have been packing public meetings and demonstrating against the protect, particularly in Lancaster County.

“It’s just one more layer of well-founded, reasoned opposition,” says Tim Spiese, a vocal critic of the Atlantic Sunrise project. “So many of the things EPA mentioned, we’ve been screaming about all along. Use the existing routes.”

Chis Stockton, a spokesman for Williams, the pipeline company behind the project says the EPA’s letter is part of the normal public review process for FERC’s environmental impact statement (EIS).

“The purpose of the draft EIS is to solicit comments from the public, agencies and project stakeholders, like the EPA,” Stockton writes in an email. “FERC isn’t issuing its final EIS until the fall, so it will spend the next several months evaluating all of the comments received.”

FERC is expected to make a final decision on the project in early 2017.

Photo caption: A clearing shows the site of a pipeline, one of many running beneath Pennsylvania’s farms, forests and waterways.

Photo credit: Kim Paynter / WHYY

By |July 12th, 2016|Categories: Condemnation, Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

Clean Air Council Order

The Clean Air Council filed a suit which sought to prevent Sunoco Pipeline from using eminent domain for the Mariner East 2 pipeline. A Philadelphia County Judge denied the Sunoco preliminary objections. Sunoco Pipeline asked the Commonwealth Court for the opportunity to appeal that Order. On June 21, 2016 the Commonwealth Court denied the Sunoco request to appeal. The Clean Air Council will now move forward with the suit seeking and order to prohibit Sunoco from attempting to use eminent domain power for Mariner East 2.

By |June 23rd, 2016|Categories: Condemnation, Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|