MEDINA — Ten Medina County residents are among more than 60 people in three counties who joined in filing a federal lawsuit seeking to stop the proposed $2 billion NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline.
The 50-page complaint was filed Friday with the U.S. District Court for Northern Ohio against NEXUS and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
A Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS, was submitted to FERC on Nov. 30 approving the project’s route that includes Medina County. Since then, NEXUS has been awaiting approval to begin construction from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The lawsuit asks that the court “vacate and overturn” that impact statement. It also asks that FERC be prohibited from issuing the certificate approving the project and that NEXUS be ordered to stop attempting to access properties and communicate with owners and not to reach any legal agreements with them. It also asks for attorney fees.
Paul Gierosky, one of the Medina County residents in the case, said it has been assigned to Judge John Adams in the court’s Akron office.
Gierosky and another York Township resident in the case, Debora Christy, are among the leaders of the citizens group CORN (Coalition to Reroute NEXUS) that has attempted to have the project’s proposed route changed since the pipeline was announced in August 2014.
NEXUS is a business consortium made up of Houston, Texas-based Spectra Energy, DTE Energy of Detroit, Mich., and Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc.
Asked Sunday night if the suit was the biggest stand CORN can make in its bid to change the project or stop it, Gierosky said, “yes.”
NEXUS spokesman Adam Parker said in a statement Sunday night: “While we cannot comment specifically on pending litigation, NEXUS has undergone a rigorous environmental review and has been publicly evaluated for more than two years to ensure that the project’s proposed design and construction will be conducted in accordance with all applicable state and federal regulations. The record supporting NEXUS’ certificate application is complete and ready for prompt FERC approval once a quorum is restored.”
Parker was referring to the fact that FERC is a five-member board that has been operating with only two commissioners — acting chair Cheryl LaFleur and Colette D. Honorable. A quorum is necessary to execute business such as the issuance of a certificate for NEXUS to proceed.
Last week, President Donald Trump announced he planned to make nominations to fill two of the three vacancies, thereby creating a quorum. No timeline was disclosed for when the nominations would be made or how quickly the U.S. Senate would move to confirm the appointments.
Gierosky said he is part of a group of interested pipeline activists who plan to visit Washington, D.C., on May 22 and 23 to meet with the staff of senators who have seats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which would be the first step in the approval of filling vacant FERC positions. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, is a member of that committee.
Gierosky said all the 60-plus individuals in the lawsuit “voluntarily” came forward to become part of the complaint filed by David Mucklow of Akron, Aaron Ridenbaugh of Cuyahoga Falls and Kevin J. Breen of Fairlawn. Mucklow, who has worked for months on behalf of property owners, especially those in the city of Green in Summit County, could not be reached for comment Sunday night.
In February, Green City Council approved spending up to $10,000 for legal help in opposing the NEXUS route in its area.
The lawsuit says property owners named in the filing fall into two categories. One group is subject to “eminent domain,” in which private property may be used for what is considered a public use. The second group, the suit says, are individuals within a 1,200- to 1,500-foot area that the suit calls a “blast or impact radius.” The suit says that group “may experience physical harm or property damage if the line is built.
The Medina County residents named in the group are: Gierosky and his wife, Elizabeth, and Debora Christy, all of York Township; Debra L. Dangelo, of Lafayette Township; Jeffrey L. and Denise L. Aungst, of York Township; and Jonathan Strong, Victor Giaconia and Joseph and Ruth Giacomoni, all of Guilford Township.
Strong, Giaconia, the Aungsts, the Giacomonis and Dangelo are named as among those “targeted for eminent domain” while the other Medina County residents are listed in the “impact radius” group.
Christy, one of the founders of CORN, said Sunday night, “I’m pleased” the suit was filed.
“We’ve done research, we’ve worked very hard,” she said. “There is no purpose or need for the pipeline. We have provided them with a better route; they refuse to look at it. It (the project) is just wrong on so many levels. It’s been a nightmare.”
The pipeline is proposed to originate in Columbiana County and travel 256 miles through 10 Ohio counties including Stark, Summit, Medina and Lorain on the way to an energy hub in Canada where natural gas would be exported for sale. Compressor stations, which would help the energy travel through the line, also would be constructed, including one scheduled for Guilford Township.
The lawsuit cites the following reasons why the pipeline should be stopped:
- violation of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969;
- conflicts between the environmental impact statement and “local land use restrictions, such as zoning codes in Guilford Township;
- ignoring safety issues “and other critical topics”;
- violations of the Natural Gas Act of 1938, the first federal regulation of the industry.
Another local group that has worked to oppose the pipeline is Sustainable Medina County, whose leaders have proposed asking voters to approve creation of a charter that would allow issues such as a pipeline construction to come before voters.
The leader of the group, Kathie Jones of Sharon Township, said Sunday night in reaction to the lawsuit: “Sustainable Medina County is foursquare against NEXUS, and we applaud and encourage all efforts, whether litigation, civil intervention, or the exercise of our constitutional guarantees in favor of protecting our communities.”
In a press release announcing the lawsuit, Gierosky wrote: “No one should be treated in such a fashion by their government. … I used to believe that government exists for our benefit and was intended to serve our needs. While I still have faith that this exists at the local level, what has evolved in Washington, D.C., is anything but government of the people, by the people and for the people.
“We did not ask for this fight but we will not shrink from it.”
Contact Managing Editor Lawrence Pantages at (330) 721-4065 or email@example.com.
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