Pipelines continue push into Fulton County

Utopia East project eyes county

By David J. Coehrs - [email protected]

Yet another pipeline company is claiming surveying rights in Fulton County, and at least two of the affected landowners would rather see the intended project stay away.

Last week, Texas-based Kinder Morgan sent residents within the area around County Road 4 and County Road 5 certified copies of a letter of intent to survey for its Utopia East pipeline project. The approximately $500 million, 220-mile Ohio pipeline will involve installation of 12-inch diameter pipe from Harrison County to Fulton County.

Through a long-term transportation agreement with Canadian-based NOVA Chemical Corporation, the pipeline will carry ethane and ethane-propane mixtures through the state, and to facilities in Windsor, Ontario. The previously refined products will be used in plastic production.

Two pump stations will permit the Utopia East pipeline to initially transport 50,000 barrels of product per day, and more than 75,000 barrels per day are possible if additional stations are built. Pipeline construction is scheduled to begin November 2016, with full service to commence in 2018.

Fulton, Henry, Lucas, Wood, and Sandusky counties are included among 13 counties along the intended westward pipeline route. About 16 miles of pipeline planned for Fulton County will connect with existing Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Both federal and state regulations require an installation depth of 36 inches. The company requires a 50-foot wide permanent easement and a temporary work space of between 100-125 feet.

The Sept. 8 Kinder Morgan letter advised residents that they received it either for denying the company permission to survey their properties or for failing to confirm their permission. It informed them the Ohio Revised Code authorizes the surveys, which will be conducted within the following 30 days.

The letter quotes ORC Section 163.03, which states: “An agency may, upon the notice prescribed in this section, prior to or subsequent to the filing of a petition…enter upon any land, waters, and premises for the purpose of making such surveys, soundings, drillings, appraisals, and examinations as are necessary or proper for the purpose…and such entry will not constitute a trespass.”

The letter continues: “…Unless we hear from you otherwise, we will enter onto your property for the purpose of conducting such examinations…”

Since the 1980s, Bill Mack has been growing corn and soybeans on 60 acres that cross County Road 4-1 and County Road C. The Utopia East pipeline would be installed through the property’s eastern side, tearing up drainage tile and causing the water table to move.

“I don’t want it on my property. They’re going to tear too much ground up. It will never be the same,” Mack said.

He received Kinder Morgan’s letter last week, as well as tentative monetary offers to grant the company easement. He said they are too low to consider accepting.

“I don’t want to accept anything. I don’t want the pipeline, but I may be forced into it,” he said. “It kind of threw me that they said they can come on without permission.”

Mack said he expected the letter “because they’re pushing it now. So I knew eventually it was going to come. I’ve been ignoring them so far on the paperwork. They’ve sent a couple letters before this – trying to soften me up, I guess.”

He had a similar experience with the proposed NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline, until that company informed him in July a reroute left them no longer interested.

Another resident, who received the Kinder Morgan letter and asked to remain unidentified, said the Utopia East pipeline would travel through half a mile of the 80 acres he farms on County Road C within the targeted area. Two weeks ago, the company sent a representative to his house who extolled the virtues of the project.

“I told him I didn’t want his money, and to keep the pipeline,” the resident said.

According to the company’s plans, the pipeline could be installed only about 100 feet from his house. And what little compensation is being offered for an easement isn’t worth his time.

He hopes a survey is not inevitable, “but with (the ORC) I don’t know how we’d stop it. I’m trying to convince them to wait until after harvest, but there’s probably nothing I can do about it. If I had my way, they’d have another route for the pipeline.”

Kinder Morgan spokesperson Melissa Ruiz said the company has a high success rate for negotiating with landowners and communities. “We expect that trend to continue with the Kinder Morgan Utopia East project,” she said.

Ruiz said almost 80 percent approval for surveying has been granted along the proposed pipeline route. She emphasized that surveying activity does not involve eminent domain practices.

“We’re simply seeking to access the land to conduct surveys, and these civil and environmental surveys are helpful in gathering information necessary to protect cultural resources, wildlife habitat, and the environment,” she said.

Landowners will be reimbursed for damages attributable to survey activity, she added.

“Kinder Morgan’s goal is to maintain amicable relationships with all landowners, and it is our intent to conduct surveys and examinations with minimal inconvenience to those along the proposed route,” Ruiz said.

Mack said he would like the state to establish a permanent pipeline corridor, but politicians seem wary about getting involved. He said Kinder Morgan’s plans for Fulton County would do nothing but disrupt the rural residents’ way of life.

“It’s peaceful out here, or it was,” he said.

Utopia East project eyes county

By David J. Coehrs

[email protected]

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.