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NEXUS opponents readying lawsuit to challenge pipeline construction

  • NexusRoute-120116-c-01-copy-tif

    The proposed NEXUS pipeline route.

    ED BETZEL / GAZETTE

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A lawsuit alleging violations of the Natural Gas Act is being prepared to challenge construction of the NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline.

A notice of the legal challenge to be filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland was disclosed in a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by the Coalition to Reroute NEXUS, or CORN.

“A team of attorneys are preparing for litigation to be filed against NEXUS for numerous violations of the Natural Gas Act and related body of law, likely to be filed with FERC before an administrative law judge,” the Jan. 28 filing says.

The plan is to present as evidence the activity of NEXUS acquiring easements and property in several counties in Ohio along the proposed pipeline route.

“This has been carried out in a controversial method of harassing property owners with unlicensed or unauthorized persons carrying firearms to intimidate property owners to sign documents, both for consent to survey and easements,” the filing says.

The NEXUS pipeline is a proposed $2 billion project that is awaiting action from FERC after a final environmental impact statement was approved Nov. 30. The 255-mile line would transport gas across 10 Ohio counties starting in Columbiana and proceeding through Medina and Lorain. The gas would flow to a hub in Canada for export sales.

The project first was proposed in August 2014 and NEXUS — a partnership of DTE Energy of Detroit and Spectra Energy of Houston — asked in November 2015 for FERC approval to begin construction in the first quarter of 2017.

The new filing by CORN, a citizens group, argues that NEXUS did not have authority to enter into easements or purchase real property ahead of FERC’s final ruling on the pipeline.

They cite the Natural Gas Act, enacted in 1938, which provides that natural gas companies may not acquire property for pipeline construction “without a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the commission.”

According to the filing, NEXUS has acquired approximately 30 percent of the needed parcels in Summit County, 50 percent in Medina County, 50 percent in Lorain County and above 50 percent in Stark County.

Spectra Energy spokesman Adam Parker said in an email Monday that land surveys have been completed for about 95 percent of the NEXUS Gas Transmission project area. “NEXUS will continue to work with landowners, as we have over the past two years, to resolve any outstanding matters” prior to FERC’s final ruling, he wrote.

The plan for litigation comes just as FERC is about to lose one of its three commissioners on the five-member board.

Chairman Norman Bay submitted a letter of resignation Friday to President Donald Trump.

Bay’s departure this Friday will leave the commission with acting Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur and Colette Honorable as members. When Bay’s letter was disclosed, FERC observers questioned whether the commission could transact business with only two members.

NEXUS officials filed a request for approval of the line this week before Bay’s departure.

“The Commission is working to get as many orders out as possible, to maximize the time we have with Norman Bay here,” LaFleur said in a statement Thursday.

NEXUS’ filing states there are “no open issues” standing in the way of the commission’s approval.

However, CORN attorneys filed a letter opposing the accelerated approval, noting their pending litigation against NEXUS.

CORN leaders also have said they are seeking to make Trump aware of citizens’ concerns as he prepares to nominate new FERC commissioners to replace three Obama administration appointees, two of whom had departed before Bay’s announced resignation.

Contact reporter Marina Malenic at (330) 721-4063 or nmalenic@medina-gazette.com.



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