Following a year of residential property surveys and informational public meetings, NEXUS Gas Transmission applied to the Federal Regulatory Commission Nov. 20 for approval to begin construction in early 2017.
The formal application was made even as residents of Fulton County and other counties along NEXUS’ proposed route continue to protest installation of about 208 miles of the natural gas pipeline in Ohio. The mainline 36-inch pipeline would begin in Columbiana County at the Kensington Processing Plant, then wend its way across Ohio and Michigan until connecting with DTE Gas in Ypsilanti Township, Mich.
The approximately $2 billion project would transport up to two billion cubic feet of natural gas daily from Utica and Marcellus shale gas operations in areas including Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Jefferson, Mahoning, and Monroe counties in Ohio. It would ultimately reach the Dawn Hub in Ontario, Canada, then enter a processing plant for refining. Although unverified, critics have accused NEXUS of a plan to ship the final product overseas.
The projects calls for about 18 miles of pipeline to be installed in Fulton County west of County Road 3. Vehement protests by area residents resulted in NEXUS revising the route to relocate the proposed pipeline even further west of Oak Openings Metropark.
The full 255-mile pipeline would begin operation in November of 2017.
FERC spokesperson Tamara Allen-Young acknowledged Tuesday the agency recently received the NEXUS application. She said after ensuring the paperwork is complete FERC will issue a notice of application stating a new docket number – CP16-22-000 – has been assigned to the case. She said public comments, motions to intervene, and protests will be filed there.
A Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity requires preparation of an Environmental Report to be included with the Section 7(c) application. NEXUS used FERC’s Pre-filing Process which involved conducting public open houses, preparation of responses to comments received on the Project during early scoping, and preparation of draft and final Resource Reports.
Once those public entreaties have been filed FERC will prepare a detailed environmental analysis of the NEXUS project, which consists of 12 resource reports available for public review and comment. Following that, a final environmental document will be forwarded to the agency’s commission for a final decision.
Young-Allen said the entire process takes 12 to 18 months. She said FERC is presently in the very preliminary stages.
According to NEXUS spokesperson Arthur Diestel, more than 250 possible pipeline routes through Ohio have been studied, and suggestions will continue to be considered throughout FERC’s regulatory review. Diestel has reported that about 87 percent of the most recently determined route passes through agricultural areas or traces utility corridors already in existence.
In prepared statements, representatives of Spectra Energy and DTE Energy, the partnership behind NEXUS, lauded the proposed pipeline.
“The NEXUS project relieves pipeline capacity constraints in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays and will deliver clean-burning, affordable natural gas to customers in Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario, Canada,” said Bill Yardley, Spectra’s president of U.S. transmission and storage.
Diestel has listed 11 formal Ohio market connections for NEXUS, including the Ohio Gas Company based in Bryan. Bob Eyre, the company’s vice president in charge of purchasing, said Tuesday a tap would be installed for the company, although he doesn’t foresee using it for at least five, and possibly 10, years. He said the area of installation isn’t developed enough to consider use.
“It’s more for future economic development,” Eyre said of the tap. “We don’t have any financial interest in the project at all. We just support the project.”
Paul Wohlfarth, a Michigan resident whose son lives within the proposed path of the pipeline in Fulton County, is a member of the Coalition to Re-Route NEXUS (CORN). He wonders how the pipeline company can claim Ohio Gas as a customer if there is no immediate need.
“(I) wonder how many more customers in Ohio are not in immediate need? We believe this is just hype to get the pipeline in using eminent domain for its largest export customer, Canada,” Wohlfarth said.
He also claims NEXUS’ latest resource report is full of mistruths. “If you’re not paying attention…you’ll easily be fooled,” he said.
Wolhfarth said CORN is attempting to gain an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency hearing on a NEXUS compressor station planned in the Waterville-Whitehouse area. He said chemical emissions emanating from the proposed compressor would affect up to a five-mile radius.
“It will create a cancer hot spot for the region,” Wolhfarth said.
He’s also concerned about releases of natural gas into the air during “blow-downs,” changes of pressure NEXUS would make in the pipeline for maintenance or in cases of leaks or safety concerns. He said to his knowledge the gas, which is collected from shale through a process called fracking, is rife with radon, which can decay into radioactive particles.
Liz Athaide-Victor, a Swanton resident and an outspoken member of CORN, said she’s disappointed NEXUS didn’t accept an alternate pipeline route the group submitted to steer it away from the Oak Openings region.
“They came back with, it’s too far, it’s too expensive, and it’s going to cost them too much time,” she said. “The bottom line is, they want to line their pockets at the expense of people in this area, and to hell with everyone else.”
The company’s rush to get the infrastructure in the ground is a ruse, Athaide-Victor said, adding, “They pulled the 2017 deadline out of the air. They’re greedy. They just want to start making money.”
She said county residents haven’t yet grasped how large an intrusion the pipeline is going to be. “When (NEXUS) starts digging a 125-foot area to lay that pipeline …they’re going to be horrified. They can’t even conceptualize what’s going to happen. The people around here are going to be in for a big wake-up call, and they’re going to be shocked.”
Athaide-Victor also didn’t mince words about what she calls a lack of concern by the county’s state-level political representatives.
“I’m so disappointed with the higher-up elected officials. They’ve never come to this area at all (to discuss the pipeline). “No one who’s supposed to represent us is there for us. It’s just a complete disgrace.”
David Slater, DTE’s president of gas storage and pipelines, said, among other benefits to Ohio, the NEXUS pipeline would create 6,000 jobs. He said it also “will play a key role in helping the U.S. transition to cleaner sources for generating electricity, including new power plants fueled by natural gas, as coal plants are retired due to their age and environmental regulations.”
But Athaide-Victor said CORN will fight the pipeline to the bitter end.
“We’ll see them in court,” she said. “They haven’t seen the last of us.”
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.