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Landowners and property rights advocates express concern over proposed gas pipeline's safety

Feb 10, 2015

New pipelines are good for energy companies, but they often disturb private property. The Nexus pipeline would run 250 miles from gas wells in southeast Ohio to Michigan and Canada. Julie Grant reports it’s drawing opposition from landowners concerned about their safety and property rights.

Paul Gierosky isn’t what you might expect in an anti-pipeline activist. He’s a businessman. He and his wife Elizabeth have been renovating their dream home in fast-growing Medina County, in northeast Ohio, for the past two years. Sitting among the trees, it’s got the feel of an upscale cabin, with wood-beamed ceilings and large windows.

“And we wanted to be able to see the land, because it’s so beautiful. So really from every room you can see outside and see the property," says Elizabeth Gierosky.

But before they even finished moving in, the Gieroskys got a notice: their new property was in what’s called a study corridor for the Nexus pipeline.

Nexus is a joint venture of DTE Energy and Spectra Energy of Houston.

The new pipeline would start in southeastern Ohio, and run 200 miles toward Michigan. Then it would run an additional 50 miles through Lenawee, Monroe and Washtenaw Counties. It would connect to the existing DTE Gas Transportation system west of Detroit, and then the Vector Pipeline system into Canada.

The proposed Nexus pipeline route
Credit ewashtenaw.org

The company wants to survey the Gierosky's front yard, to see if they can dig it up to lay their new line. The more the Gieroskys looked into it, the more upset they got.

“Our first concern started out to be safety,” says Paul Gierosky.

It would be 42 inches wide. Paul holds his arms high and wide in the air above his head as he asks, “Do you understand how big the pipeline is?”

He worries what would happen if someone accidentally shoveled into it.

“The experts are saying that there’s so much pressure that the heat that’s going to come through a small crack or small orifice is going to self-ignite, so we’re going to have an explosion.”

Residents call for rerouting of line

"There's nothing set in stone. This route will continue to evolve over the course of the next year." —Arthur Diestel, Nexus spokesman

He and a coalition of other concerned citizens from around the state have joined together to get the pipeline re-routed through a less densely populated area. And they’ve convinced many local township and county governments to join them.

300 concerned landowners, farmers, local officials and others showed up at a pipeline meeting held by Nexus. A hundred blue-shirted Nexus representatives were there ready to answer questions.

Still, Maureen Hardy was disheartened. She got notice in recent months that a pipeline compression station was planned near her house. She didn’t even know what it was, but she’s worried it will be loud and polluting.  

“I’ve talked to several different people from Nexus and gotten several different answers,” Hardy says.

Additional public meetings and upcoming federal review 

Nexus spokesman Arthur Diestel says the company is holding meetings like this all month in Ohio and Michigan to hear concerns, before finalizing the pipeline route. 

“There’s nothing set in stone," says Diestel. "This route will continue to evolve over the course of the next year.”

Nexus has started the permitting process through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, which needs to approve the pipeline route.

“We have engineers that review safety," says the FERC’s Joanne Wachholder, a manager of the government’s review.

"We have biologists, like myself, that review the waters and wetlands and endangered species and vegetation. We have cultural resource experts to make sure that historic preservation areas are not disturbed.”

Some landowners doubt impartiality of federal oversight

But some landowners at the meeting don’t believe FERC will address their concerns. Mario Pasolini lives in Seville, a small Ohio farming community. He says FERC will approve Nexus.

“No doubt about it. They’re in the business to rubber-stamp pipelines.”

Pasolini and landowners he’s joined with want to stop the pipeline from being built. He plans to fight Nexus in court. If they try to take his property, he plans to argue that eminent domain is only supposed to be used for a public use, like a highway or railroad.

“This is a private, fortune 500 company called Spectra Energy, and they’re in this to make money.”

Pasolini says the gas is heading for Canada, and it's not going to be a public good in Ohio. Nexus argues it would serve the public, with possible gas customers along the pipeline route.

They plan to submit a formal application to FERC later this year.