Nexus opponents continue to fight pipeline, despite federal approval

MEDINA, Ohio — Residents opposed to a proposed Nexus natural gas pipeline that was approved by a federal agency Friday said they would fight every step of the way.

On Friday evening the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” for the 255-mile long pipeline project that would carry natural gas from Eastern Ohio, across Ohio and into Michigan, where it will hook up to an existing line to take the gas into Ontario, Canada.

But residents in Medina, Lorain and Summit counties who have fought the $2 billion project for three years, said there are more hurdles that Nexus must cross. “It’s never over until it’s over,” said Paul Gierosky, a co-founder of the grass roots organization Coalition to Reroute Nexus. “Nexus now needs a water quality permit from the Ohio EPA and another from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. These are not foregone conclusions. Pipelines in New Jersey and Virginia are on hold because the state EPAs have not issued permits.”

The permits deal with water quality in streams and wetlands, plans to discharge drilling fluids into the environment and plans to tunnel beneath rivers and streams for the pipeline.

Adam Parker, a spokesman for Nexus, said the company has received “all necessary approvals” from the Army Corps and that “before beginning construction, the project will obtain all necessary permits and authorizations.”

“The approval (from FERC) authorizes Nexus, subject to certain conditions, to proceed with the final preparations to commence construction to meet an in-service date in 2018,” he said in an e-mail.

Previously, the company had hoped to install the pipeline this year and have it completed by November. The delay in approval from FERC because the governing board did not have enough members caused the new timeline. Now, Parker said they will soon come up with a new completion date for sometime in 2018.

Gierosky said they will ask FERC for a hearing so they can present their arguments against granting Nexus a permit.

“We are also waiting for Judge John Adams to rule on a lawsuit we filed May 12 in the  U.S. District Court, Northern Division, in Akron,” he said. “We asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction to stop FERC from issuing a permit.”

The lawsuit was filed against the Nexus Gas Transmission company and FERC. It also asks the court to order FERC to overturn the final environmental impact statement submitted by Nexus last November for the route that would run from Ohio to Canada.

The suit, filed by more than 60 residents of Medina, Lorain and Summit counties, asked the court to prevent FERC from allowing construction of the pipeline to begin. Further, the suit asks the court to order Nexus to stay off homeowners’ properties and to cease attempting to negotiate with them.

The judge’s magistrate, Kathleen Burke, filed a recommendation on Aug. 7 that the suit be dismissed. Parker said he is waiting for the judge to make his decision.

Jon Strong, another founding member of the coalition known as CORN, said that even with FERC’s approval Friday it will “still be a while” before digging commences.

“But on Friday evening when the news went out that FERC issued the permit, there were land agents at people’s homes trying to convince them to grant easements to their properties (to allow the pipeline to be built,)” Strong said. “These agents got the news by phone and then told people they’d better sign the easements now.”

Dozens of people in Ohio whose properties are in the path of the pipeline have refused to sign easements to allow the work to begin. Nexus could seek orders of eminent domain to force property owners to permit the work.

“The big thing is that we have been prepared for any scenario,” said Strong. “We know if they complete the hurdles they will begin work on the line. We have advised people to hire a lawyer and mitigate the damage, get the best deal they can.”

“At some point The Man will win and you have to roll over,” he said. “Still, we will fight to the bitter end.”

Strong said he and Gierosky, both of Media County, plan to continue the fight in another way. Strong is a candidate for the Guilford Township Board of Trustees and Gierosky is running for the York Township Board of Trustees.

“Maybe the only way to change the system is to work from within,” Strong said.