Sheetz, others protest gas pipeline

A coalition of gasoline retailers — including Sheetz — have filed a formal protest over Houston-based Buckeye Partners’ latest plan to move fuels in two directions in a portion of its pipeline west of Altoona.

With original plans for reversing pipeline flow blocked by the state Public Utility Commission last year, Buckeye Partners has sought permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to make service bi-directional along the Altoona-to-Pittsburgh section of the 350-mile Laurel Pipeline.

Buckeye and its supporters said the change would bring lower cost gasoline to the region.

However, a coalition comprised of Sheetz, Giant Eagle, Guttman Energy, Lucknow-Highspire Terminals LLC (a Gulf Oil affiliate), Monroe Energy LLC and Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining and Marketing LLC remains staunchly against Buckeye’s new plan.

On Wednesday, the coalition issued a press release stating that they are protesting Buckeye’s “effort to force more expensive fuel on Western PA.”

In the release, the coalition said, “Historically, for more than half the year, gasoline that comes to Western Pennsylvania from the east is cheaper than gasoline that comes to the region from refiners

in the Midwest. Western Penn­sylvania businesses and consumers benefit by having the choice to shop around for the lowest price gasoline, and Philadelphia refiners and employees benefit from access to the Western Pennsylvania market to meet consumer demand.”

In 2017, the Buckeye sought permission from the Pennsylvania PUC to reverse the flow on the pipeline west of Altoona to bring fuels from Midwest refiners to customers farther east in Pennsylvania.

However, in July, the PUC in a 5-0 vote rejected Buckeye’s application.

Buckeye then requested for bi-directional flow through the pipeline through the commission.

The same coalition, which was against the reversal, remains against the new proposal, calling it “a new assault on consumers.”

“Buckeye has not shown that its bi-directional proposal is workable in practice, and it has not committed to ensuring that Western Pennsylvania businesses and consumers will continue to have access to reliable, often cheaper fuel from the East Coast,” a press release from the coalition said.

“Buckeye is again putting businesses and consumers at risk for higher prices at the pump and potential fuel shortages,” the release added.

Bill Hollis, senior vice president of Buckeye, in a letter to the editor published in 2017 when the PUC was to vote on company’s original application, argued for the benefits of the pipeline reversal.

“The abundant supplies of crude oil being produced in North America, combined with significant investments by Midwest refiners, are providing consumers to our west with more low-cost, secure, domestically manufactured fuels,” he wrote. “Specifically, we have proposed to the Public Utility Commission to reverse a portion of the Laurel Pipeline, which would bring up to 40,000 barrels a day of more affordable fuel east to the Altoona region.”

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.

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