Company aiming to build pipeline to carry gas from shale across Ohio

By Mark Gillispie  ASSOCIATED PRESS  •  Monday December 14, 2015

CLEVELAND — The company planning to build a $2 billion gas pipeline across northern Ohio has filed its formal application for federal approval, citing a projected surge in production in eastern Ohio and surrounding states and an expected demand for gas from electric utility companies as reasons why the pipeline is needed.

NEXUS Gas Transmission hopes to have the pipeline built and ready to transport gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields by November 2017. Opponents, meanwhile, say they will continue their fight to have the pipeline rerouted from populated areas to farmland farther south.

NEXUS wants to build 255 miles of 36-inch pipeline — 208 miles in Ohio and 47 in Michigan — between eastern Ohio and a large gas facility in Ontario, Canada. The pipeline would have the capacity to move 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day, which would meet the needs of 15,000 homes for a year. NEXUS is a joint venture between Houston-based Spectra Energy and Detroit’s DTE Energy.

Electric utilities are under “significant pressure” to switch to natural gas for power generation, NEXUS spokesman Arthur Diestel said in an email. He added that the region is “uniquely positioned to benefit from an abundance of clean-burning and affordable gas.”

The company says in its application filed last month with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that it has commitments for more than half of the pipeline’s capacity — primarily from natural-gas distribution companies along the planned route and some large industrial users — and is negotiating with other companies for the remainder.

There’s a second, larger pipeline project planned for northern Ohio that’s working its way through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval process. The ET Rover project consists of two 42-inch pipelines that can transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

Critics question whether there’s a need for both projects.

But Jimmy Stewart, president of the Ohio Gas Association, an industry trade group, said drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shale fields has “only scratched the surface” of the amount of gas that can be produced there. Drilling companies need the pipelines to deliver that gas to populated areas with strong markets, Stewart said.

“It has to ultimately get to where it’s used, and the safest and most-efficient way to do it is a transmission pipeline,” Stewart said.

There have been few catastrophic failures of large natural-gas pipelines in the U.S., but the possibility of an explosion — like the one in San Bruno, Calif., in 2010 that resulted in eight deaths and the destruction of 38 homes — has fueled efforts to get the pipeline moved away from populated areas.

The city of Oberlin, Ohio, has hired an attorney in Washington to intervene in the FERC application process. Oberlin’s city manager said the proposed NEXUS route would put the pipeline less than 100 feet from 75 homes and 1,100 feet from a recreation center.

Oberlin wants NEXUS to reconsider a route proposed earlier this year by the city of Green in Summit County that would move the pipeline to farmland.

“We think that alternative route has a lot of merit,” said Oberlin city manager Eric Norenberg.

NEXUS already rejected that proposal. Diestel said it would add 62 miles to the pipeline and increase the footprint required for construction and permanent easements.

Medina County resident Paul Gierosky, one of the founders of Coalition to Reroute Nexus, is heartened that Oberlin has joined the fight. His property originally was in the proposed path of the pipeline, which has since been shifted to his neighbor’s property.

“They need to realize we’re not going to roll over and play dead,” Gierosky said. “We’re going to fight them tooth and nail for every inch. The longer we can delay them, the stronger we get.”