Gas pipelines coming to county

Source: Mansfield News Journal

For the past few years now, counties across north central Ohio have been waiting to see how the energy boom in the Marcellus and Utica shale gas plays to our east would impact this region.

Although the actual horizontal drilling, or fracking, has so far largely been limited to areas east of the Interstate 77 corridor, several pipelines slated to carry that natural gas to market are in the planning stages — and they will cross this area to get there.

Energy Transfer’s Rover pipeline will run from east to west across the middle of Ashland and Richland counties, then veer west-northwest through Crawford County. Meanwhile, TransCanada is planning to extend its ANR pipeline from southeastern Ohio north-northeast through Knox, Morrow and Crawford counties, while possibly crossing into Richland and Marion counties.

The specific routes the pipelines will follow have yet to be determined, although the Rover pipeline appears to be further along in making that determination, with surveyors in the field. And these two projects are probably just the tip of the iceberg.

“Another three in that corridor are being evaluated. All of them will basically start in western Pennsylvania and go through north central Ohio. You’re going to see a lot more development with pipelines,” Dale Arnold, director of energy policy for the Ohio Farm Bureau, said.

“With interstate, intrastate and other local utility infrastructure, we’re looking at 38,000 miles of new pipelines between now and the middle of the next decade. Farmers could be approached on any of these projects.”

A spokeswoman for TransCanada said the energy company is facing challenges getting its natural gas to market.

“We’re seeing increased demand in areas where there is no infrastructure. It’s been gradually building up, and then all at once we had a surge of customers trying to get the gas in our system,” Gretchen Krueger said from TransCanada’s office in Houston, Texas.

“A real need has arisen just within the last year. More homes are gravitating toward natural gas as a source of energy. It’s a different ballgame now, with where the gas is and where it needs to be.”

TransCanada’s ANR extension will originate in Clarington, on the Ohio River in Monroe County, and wind up in on the shores of Lake Michigan, after passing through a pipeline hub in Defiance, Ohio, where Energy Transfer’s Rover pipeline will also go.

A representative from TransCanada recently met with the Morrow County commissioners.

“The notion we got is that it would move up through Franklin and Congress townships and, I suspect, end up in Washington Township near Iberia,” Commissioner Dick Miller said.

That tentative route would then bring the pipeline into Crawford County’s Whetstone Township, after just skirting Marion County. Crawford County Commissioner Doug Weisenauer, however, was only familiar with the Rover pipeline project.

“I attended an open house in Tiffin, but we have not been approached about it. I’ve looked at their application online, but we continue to wait for them to grace our office,” he said of Energy Transfer.

“We are still in the preliminary stages of the project. We continue to work with landowners to get their permission to survey the land so a final route can be determined and then be submitted to the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission for their approval,” company spokesperson Vicki Granado said.

“We held 10 open houses in July along the pipeline route (there was one on a Christmas tree farm in Ashland County two weeks ago). At this time, we don’t have plans for any additional open houses, but we are continuing to meet with all parties involved. Additionally, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold its public scoping meetings at some point in the future.”

Richland County Commissioner Ed Olson echoed his counterpart in Crawford County, saying he hadn’t sat down with anyone yet regarding the Rover Pipeline, which according to an early map would cross the country on the north side of Mansfield, where a compressor station, a facility that boosts pressure to keep the gas moving, will be located, according to the map.

Olson did meet recently with a TransCanada rep, however, who showed him a possible map of the ANR pipeline.

“It would barely cross the Richland County line south of Bellville in Jefferson and Perry townships. That’s unglaciated terrain and very hilly, but it’s sparsely populated so there would be fewer people to negotiate easements with,” Olson said.

“He said not to take the map as a route. It’s merely an early proposal. They don’t have people on the ground yet to look at the topography.”

“This one would be a 30-inch line, and that’s gigantic, really. It’s a big deal,” Miller said, who was optimistic the ANR line would include a delivery point in Morrow County that customers could tap into.

“I don’t like the notion that natural gas produced in Ohio is being shipped via pipeline out of state, but it should alleviate shortages like the propane shortage we had last winter. They’re going to transport that gas one way or the other. Do we want it in rail cars or an underground pipeline?”

Rural landowners across the area shouldn’t be surprised to get a knock on the door in the coming weeks and months from the pipeline companies, who are required to wear clothes and drive vehicles that clearly identify them, asking to come on their land to conduct environmental surveys.

“Make sure you are with them, and take very good notes, including names and phone numbers,” Arnold of the Ohio Farm Bureau advised.

“Another thing to really tell landowners is there’s no such thing as a group easement agreement. Each one is negotiated separately, so what you get might be different from what your neighbors have. Approach that strip of land as if you were going to sell it.”

Arnold cautioned that after a pipeline is installed, agricultural producers will likely lose the ability to grow anything on it for two growing seasons. Compaction damage could extend that to five, even 10 years, and if the pipeline crosses timber or vineyard acreage, it won’t be able to be planted again. If there is a spill or other accident with the pipeline, however, property owners will not be liable for any damage.

“These companies are very open with landowners when it comes to negotiation. Don’t lock the gate and do the shotgun defense. That’s everything they need for eminent domain,” Arnold said, describing the legal process whereby a governmental agency can expropriate private land for public use against the wishes of the landowner.

“For us that is a last resort. Landowners should talk to their right-of-way agent, tell them about their concerns and issues. We want to hear those, so we can do all we can to arrive at an agreement that meets their needs as well as ours,” Energy Transfer’s Granado said.

“We always like to work one-on-one with someone so that it doesn’t get to the eminent domain issue, but it’s very early at this point,” Krueger of TransCanada said. “We’ll negotiate on the courthouse steps before an eminent domain hearing if we have to. It’s not just drawing a line.”

Both projects have made preliminary filings with FERC, Arnold said, the first step in a long regulatory process. As the projects proceed the companies will have to work closely with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio Historical Society. County and township officials will have little oversight.

“We typically avoid sensitive areas, such as historic sites and cemeteries, and look for what will have the least impact on stakeholders. We also consider future land use,” Krueger said.

Arnold said that once they’re in the ground the pipelines, with proper care and maintenance, should last until the end of the century.