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State rejects Laurel Pipeline request

HARRISBURG — Penn­syl­­vania utility regulators are rejecting an application to reverse the flow of refined fuels on a portion of the Laurel Pipeline west of Altoona.

The Public Utility Com­mission voted 5-0 Thursday to uphold an administrative law judge’s recommendation that it reject Buckeye Partners’ application to reverse the flow on the Altoona-to-Pitts­burgh section of the 350-mile pipeline.

Houston-based Buckeye had sought the permission to reverse the flow on that section to bring fuels from Midwest refiners to customers farther east in Pennsylvania.

The pipeline currently carries petroleum products from eastern Pennsylvania to the Pittsburgh area.

Buckeye wanted to terminate the westbound shipments in the Altoona area and use the section of the pipeline west of Altoona to bring shipments east.

Buckeye and supporters of the plan said the change could bring lower cost gasoline to the Altoona area.

In May 2017, Thomas Martin of Martin Oil called into Harrisburg during a hearing before Administra­tive Law Judge Eranda Vero who heard public comments on Buckeye’s proposal.

“I wanted to say how important it is for the pipeline to reverse itself and send oil from the Midwest to Altoona,” Martin said. “It would give great benefit to my company and benefit the United States of America because Midwest refineries are providing American crude oil or Canadian crude, and that’s better than relying on Middle Eastern crude oil,” he said. “We are at a distinct price disadvantage much of the time in central Pennsylvania because we are forced to buy from the East and don’t have access to Midwest supply.”

Altoona-based Sheetz Inc. is among those opposing the change out of fears it would lead to higher prices in western Pennsylvania, which wouldn’t have access to East Coast petroleum. Also opposed, according to a February 2017 Mirror story, are Giant Eagle, Sunoco and Gulf.

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