NEXUS Gas Transmission once again is taking legal action in Medina County against county landowners who have not given surveyors permission to access their land, according to court documents filed by the company’s attorneys earlier this month.
The Texas-based company is awaiting governmental approval to begin construction in 2017 on a $2 billion, 36-inch pipeline that would pump natural gas from eastern Ohio through Michigan and into Canada.
The company is requesting access to landowner parcels to complete several surveys, according to documents filed in Medina County Common Pleas Court by NEXUS attorneys. The surveys are required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before construction can begin. The company states that the agency needs survey information to complete the final environmental impact statement by Nov. 30.
If the surveys are not completed, the company will “suffer irreparable harm” by delaying the Nov. 1, 2017, service date, according to NEXUS attorneys.
Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier will hear NEXUS’ request for temporary restraining orders against the 37 landowners named in the lawsuit at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Some of the landowners named as defendants in the lawsuit question the need for the surveys and several say their property isn’t even on the route of the proposed 250-mile pipeline.
Montville Township residents Timothy and Melissa Dundr, who are representing themselves in the lawsuit, filed a court document stating FERC has indicated it does not require the surveys before filing the final environmental impact statement.
A leader of a group that wants to reroute the pipeline south of the county, Paul Gierosky, told The Gazette that NEXUS is wrong in its court documents when it indicates these surveys must be completed before the statement is released.
“If I was a judge, I would be very upset that someone comes into court and lies,” he said.
Both the Dundr family and Lafayette Township residents Robert and Louise McAfee filed court documents stating their properties no longer are on the path of the pipeline. A preliminary environmental impact document released by FERC earlier this month recommended a short reroute in the Chippewa Lake region where both the Dundr and McAfee properties are located.
“What’s weird, more than half of (the people) being sued are no longer on route,” Gierosky, of York Township, said. “FERC ordered NEXUS to move the route in Chippewa Lake area. Whole lot of people named in lawsuit who really shouldn’t be on it.”
NEXUS spokesman Adam Parker told The Gazette in an email that the official route still is pending and won’t be finalized until FERC releases its evaluation in November.
“FERC’s evaluation is still ongoing and it has not yet issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement establishing the approved route for the project,” he wrote.
NEXUS previously wrangled with landowners in a lawsuit last summer. It accused four defendants of denying surveyors access to their land. In October, Collier ruled in favor of the company, citing Ohio laws that allow private energy or utility companies to survey land.
Less than a week after releasing his decision on the earlier Medina County case, Collier issued a stay that disallows enforcing the judgment until it has been reviewed on appeal. The 9th District Court of Appeals heard the case this spring, but has not made a ruling.
Gierosky is hopeful this stay will work in favor of pipeline opponents.
“I don’t believe the judge will allow surveys to take place because he’s already stayed the survey,” Gierosky said.
Judges in a similar appeal case in Erie County upheld the lower court’s decision to allow surveyors to access land.
Parker said cases in other counties also have been resolved in the company’s favor.
“NEXUS remains confident in its legal position,” Parker wrote.
He added that filing suit against landowners for survey access is not the company’s first choice in such matters.
“NEXUS’ preference is to obtain voluntary permission from the landowner to perform these surveys,” he wrote. “We only resort to legal measures when reasonable attempts to obtain landowner permission have failed.”
Contact reporter Elizabeth Dobbins at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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