Coalition protests Buckeye Pipeline fuel redirection effort

A coalition of businesses has filed a formal protest in hopes of blocking Texas-based Buckeye Partners LP from redirecting a gasoline pipeline from the Pittsburgh market to Central and Eastern Pennsylvania.

It is the latest flare-up in a fight that has continued for nearly three years over the direction of a pipeline between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Since 2016, Buckeye has been trying to reverse the flow of the Laurel Pipeline, which currently moves gas from east to west across Pennsylvania. It wants to change a portion from west to east to bring what it describes as “cheaper” Midwestern fuel to central and eastern Pennsylvania.

Opponents say the move cut off Pittsburgh from eastern refineries and would ultimately lead to higher gasoline prices in the Pittsburgh market.

Last year, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission unanimously rejected the request.

In response, Buckeye went to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to move gas in two directions on a portion of the pipeline.

Buckeye said earlier this month that it is moving forward with planned bi-directional service, and has scheduled the necessary advanced hydro testing, while FERC continues to review a petition for a declaratory order the company filed in April 2018.

The coalition against Buckeye’s plans, which calls itself “Deny Buckeye,” includes Sheetz, Giant-Eagle Get-Go and Philadelphia-area refiners. It called the move an attempt to circumvent the PUC ruling, and on Tuesday filed a formal protest with FERC in opposition to Buckeye’s plans.

“We see Buckeye taking a new approach to a plan that still has the same negative impact to Pennsylvania consumers,” said Daniel Donovan, director of corporate communications for Giant-Eagle Get-Go, one of the coalition’s members.

He said the plan reduces competition in western Pennsylvania and noted that “Eastern refineries are losing access to an important market.”

The coalition also said Buckeye has not shown that its bi-directional proposal is workable in practice.

Buckeye Partners released a statement in response to the formal protest.

“Buckeye Partners is eager to provide more competition and added domestic fuel sourcing options to Pennsylvania consumers while ensuring our current customers have robust regional market access,” the company said. “Long-term, well-established market trends will not change, and bi-directional Laurel service – which will bring more price-advantaged American-made fuels from west to east – is a commonsense, forward-looking solution that is responsive to these new dynamics.”

Buckeye has also appealed the PUC ruling in a case that is currently before the Commonwealth Court.

Buckeye is one of the largest independent liquid petroleum products pipeline operators in the United States in terms of volumes delivered, with approximately 6,000 miles of pipeline. It has offices in Breinigsville and Reading.

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