The controversial NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline has received final approval to begin construction from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The decision comes three weeks after two commissioners nominated by President Donald Trump were approved for the FERC board. Pipeline projects nationwide had been in limbo since the beginning of the year after departures left the commission without a quorum.
NEXUS issued a statement at 8:01 p.m. Friday night from a regional office in Independence announcing it would “proceed with final preparations to commence construction to meet an in-service date in 2018.”
Proposed in August 2014, the 36-inch diameter natural gas pipeline will be about 255 miles long and travel through 12 Ohio counties including Medina and Lorain to Michigan and then to an energy hub in Canada for export sales.
Jim Grech, president of NEXUS Gas Transmission, said in a news release that the approval from FERC “is a testament to our strong history of consultation and successful project execution.”
But the $2 billion project still faces a pair of legal challenges and opposition from citizens groups.
When some landowners in Medina, Summit and Stark counties learned three years ago of the pipeline’s proposed route, they joined to oppose the project.
The Coalition to Reroute NEXUS (known as CORN) was created to propose a route away from populated areas. Sustainable Medina County’s goal has been to stop the project altogether. Leaders of both groups told The Gazette on Friday night that even though they were expecting the news, it seemed like it was a “rubber-stamp” decision by FERC to approve a Final Environmental Impact Statement.
“What do you think my reaction is?” said Paul Gierosky of York Township. “It’s totally disappointing. But, I mean, we’ve been disappointed so many times before. This process is an elaborate charade to make it look thorough and sensible to property owner concerns.
“It’s rigged,” Gierosky said. “ There are new commissioners in there a couple weeks and they come to the conclusion that this pipeline, exporting natural gas to Canada, makes sense?”
Gierosky said the project as originally proposed was planned to run “right through my front yard” but after a “myriad of alternate, little changes,” his home will now be about 500 feet away from the line. “It runs parallel to my property,” he said.
Kathie Jones of Sharon Township said her property will be within 3 miles of a compressor station that will be built along the pipeline route to propel gas forward through the line.
Jones helped create Sustainable Medina County, which has attempted three times to place an initiative before county voters a ballot issue to create a charter government that would give the public the right to approve or deny corporate projects with potential environmental impacts.
Jones said she needed to contact members immediately to inform them of the FERC news.
“As soon as the commissioners were appointed, they planned to grant as many permits as they could because they were behind schedule,” Jones said.
She was referring to the lack of a FERC quorum, which was restored after Trump’s nominees Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson were confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 4. NEXUS then immediately filed a new request for construction approval.
“They got the permit,” Jones said. “But it’s not over yet. We’re going to keep fighting.”
NEXUS touts project
NEXUS said in the news release the pipeline “will provide a critically needed source of domestic, clean-burning, affordable natural gas to Ohio, Michigan and Ontario to meet the growing demand for natural gas-fired generation, the cleanest and most versatile fuel for powering the region’s homes and businesses.”
The release said the project will create 3,360 construction jobs overall, including 2,770 in Ohio, with a total payroll of about $668 million during construction and $3.1 million during the project’s operation.
The project is a business partnership of DTE Energy of Detroit and Spectra Energy of Houston. Spectra is owned by Canadian energy company Enbridge Inc. of Calgary, Alberta.
One ongoing legal case is Sustainable Medina County’s appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio asking that petitions with more than 6,000 Medina County voters’ signatures calling for a vote on creating a charter government be certified for the Nov. 7 ballot.
A separate challenge is a lawsuit including Gierosky as a plaintiff in the U.S. District Court in Akron, a unit of the Northern District of Ohio. It asks that the pipeline be stopped and that the final Environmental Impact Statement compiled by FERC be vacated and overturned, citing a variety of alleged regulatory and environmental concerns. If the 60-plus property owners who live in Medina, Summit and Stark counties lose the case, the next step could be an appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Issues in all of the legal challenges have concerned eminent domain, which is the right of private property to be used for public purposes, and the role of federal agencies’ oversight compared with the authority of governments at the state and county level.
Medina County commissioners have repeatedly told CORN and Sustainable Medina County leaders that they believe the county does not have local control over NEXUS’ plans.
While the CORN group was formed to work on proposing an alternate route for the line, Gierosky said Friday night that he feels the basis of the fight has now changed.
“The route is not the point. The point is that this is not good. This process violates constitutional rights,” Gierosky said. “Some of my neighbors can’t stick up for themselves. I have one who is 80 years old. She doesn’t have a computer. How do you defend yourself?”
Contact Managing Editor Lawrence Pantages at (330) 721-4065 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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