OBERLIN — City Council voted unanimously to reject an agreement with NEXUS Gas Transmission on Monday.
“While respecting the court’s ruling from December, we were negotiating with NEXUS in good faith,” said Council President Bryan Burgess. “Apparently they weren’t.”
After two readings were approved last month, it appeared the third would pass. But Burgess said the agreement became null and void as of Feb. 20, according to the city law director.
Burgess said he was told by the law director Feb. 21 that the agreement was violated because NEXUS filed with the federal court to take immediate possession of the property. Burgess said NEXUS told Oberlin officials that the city’s process was taking too long and filed for possession of the land as soon as possible to stay on schedule for construction.
NEXUS has not yet obtained the land as a decision is pending in federal court.
At the Feb. 20 meeting, Council was interrupted several times by the chants of Oberlin College students from Students for Energy Justice protesting the city’s agreement with NEXUS. This time, Rachael Hood, a sophomore student and member of SEJ, spoke for the group by reading a prepared statement to Council.
“We regret how our actions may have been perceived through the community, but we do not regret using that opportunity to remind Council the weight of that decision …” Hood said.
In November 2013, voters approved the Community Bill of Rights that would “ban the extraction of gas and oil, along with associated activities, including the disposal of associated wastes, into injection wells within the city and its jurisdiction,” according to the initiative.
Oberlin Council, along with a number of other cities and property owners in Northeast Ohio, stood together to stop the construction of the pipeline over the past few years. Most of the opposition was halted in December after a ruling from U.S. Judge John Adams in Akron. The federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed in May by more than 60 property owners against the construction of the pipeline.
When contacted about Burgess’ claim, NEXUS spokesman Adam Parker replied via email:
“After more than three years of public and regulatory review, NEXUS has obtained all necessary authorizations and permits to begin construction, has reached voluntary agreements with nearly all landowners and remains committed to working to resolve any outstanding issues,” he said. “Beyond that, we do not comment specifically on pending litigation”
Moving forward, Burgess said there isn’t much legal action the city can take, so it will wait for a magistrate to make a recommendation to the federal judge, who will then consider the recommendation and make a decision. The Council expects the magistrate to announce a recommendation by the end of the week.