Fifteen Fulton County residents who adamantly refused NEXUS surveyors access to their property have been ordered by Common Pleas Court Judge James E. Barber to step aside and let the work be completed. However, the time to complete the surveys has been limited.
In a five-page judgment entry filed July 17, Judge Barber determined that allowing NEXUS surveyors onto the private land is not burdensome to the owners and could significantly harm NEXUS’ 250-mile, $2 billion pipeline project if denied. The temporary restraining order (TRO) against the property owners was approved by Judge Barber just days after NEXUS filed a last-minute injunction in county court to gain access to the land.
The judge cited the following arguments for ruling in NEXUS’ favor:
• “NEXUS demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of this action.
• Without being granted an injunction, NEXUS will be “irreparably harmed” by the residents’ actions.
• Permitting the property surveys won’t burden the residents or the general public.
• Requirements of Ohio Civil Rule 65 – which considers injunctions and restraining orders –have been satisfied, and residents in question were adequately apprised of the TRO lawsuit against them.
Judge Barber’s ruling conforms to similar ones made recently in NEXUS’ favor by judges in Columbiana, Sandusky, Wood, Lucas, Hancock, Warren, Butler, and Jefferson counties.
“In all of them, the judges have analyzed the facts, and the law, and in all of them the judges found good cause to grant the TROs. This Court cannot find any differently,” Judge Barber wrote.
Calling NEXUS’ lawsuit an emotional matter, his decision explains that while property owners have a constitutional right to defend their homestead, public and private entities pursuing work that would benefit the general public “have the right to expect a ‘free flow’ of energy products…and the reasonable right to ‘capitalize’ those projects in a ‘reasonable manner.’
“Just as the general public of years past had a right to move their wagons and trains through rugged terrain, so too the general public of today has the right to move its modern equivalent – mined energy products,” Judge Barber wrote.
NEXUS may be a private consortium but acts for the public’s welfare, he stated. He said the U.S. capitalistic system, which grants rights to preserve private ownership, does not mean the rights of the general public “must be compromised or hamstrung.”
He added the surveys won’t be burdensome to the residents, and that compensation will be required for damage incurred in the process.
(NEXUS’) request is not an unreasonable one,” Judge Barber said.
However, he limited his order to 14 days from the time of its court entry, with leeway granted for a possible extension or modification. He also set a $100,000 bond with NEXUS, or $7,692 per parcel owner.
NEXUS opponent Liz Athaide-Victor is disappointed with the ruling.
“A lot of people are going to be affected by this. This is their private property that they pay taxes on. It just feels like it’s the big company versus the average person,” she said.
Athaide-Victor added that NEXUS is a private company, not a public utility, “and that’s what makes everybody angry.”
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.
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