The NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline is a $2 billion project that is proposed to run 255 miles from Ohio to Michigan and into Canada but, according to arguments in court Wednesday, the entire plan could be derailed because of a bat.
Several landowners in Medina County have refused to allow surveyors on their property. NEXUS filed a lawsuit against 37 landowners to gain access to their land for several surveys, one of which is to study bats.
Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier heard NEXUS’ request for temporary restraining orders against the 37 landowners Wednesday morning.
Defense attorney Gregory A. Huber, left, interviews Burk Donaldson, center, of the Spectra Energy Transmission Co. during the NEXUS hearing Wednesday in front of Medina County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. Collier.
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Gregory A. Huber, attorney for the defendants, said many of the landowners aren’t even on NEXUS’ proposed route. He also said some of them have been sued three times now by NEXUS.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has requested that NEXUS conduct several environmental surveys on bats, wetlands and historical artifacts. NEXUS lawyers say the surveys must be completed so that FERC can review the project and assess the environmental impacts. NEXUS has requested that FERC give its approval to the 36-inch diameter pipeline project so construction can begin in the first quarter of 2017.
“With all due respect to the defendants and their private property rights, no harm will come to the defendants if the injunction is granted,” attorney Daniel E. Gerken said on behalf of NEXUS.
He said the surveys are not invasive and do not require boring or drilling of any kind in Medina County.
Gerken said the county is estimated to receive $54 million in tax revenues from the project in the first five years.
Huber, who also is Medina’s law director, said landowners don’t want NEXUS surveyors on their property. He disagreed about the need for a temporary restraining order, disputing the idea of an “alleged emergency.” The landowners are asking that Collier wait for a decision expected from the 9th District Court of Appeals on the same issue in a another case.
Huber said the surveys don’t have to be completed before FERC files its final environmental impact statement.
“They don’t have to be done now,” he said.
Gerken said there is a threat of irreparable harm if the survey request is not granted.
“It will put the NEXUS project in jeopardy,” he said.
Susan Gifford, an expert on endangered bats, testified in front of Medina Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier Wednesday in the NEXUS hearing.
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Susan Gifford, an expert on endangered species, said if the bat surveys aren’t done by Aug. 15, the opportunity will have to wait until June 2017 for environmental reasons. That could impact the pipeline’s proposed completion date of November 2017.
She works for TRC Environmental Corp., a consulting firm in Lowell, Mass. Gifford would study areas that might have endangered species of bats, including Northern Long-Eared and Indiana.
The surveys, regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, would last two nights and a total of about five continuous hours. Surveys have been conducted on about 250 miles of the 255-mile route. They haven’t been completed in Medina and Erie counties but the company has received permission from the Erie landowners.
Burk Donaldson, who works for Houston-based Spectra Energy, the corporate entity creating the NEXUS pipeline, said he handles all the FERC filings for the company.
He said if the project is delayed, roughly $17 million a month could be lost.
Donaldson said surveys must be done before construction can start.
The hearing resumes at 9 a.m. today in Collier’s court.
Contact reporter Bob Finnanat (330) 721-4049 or email@example.com.
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