NRG Energy Inc. has taken the first step to garner easements from property owners in Lorain County through eminent domain for construction of a natural gas pipeline.
According to documents filed Tuesday in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas, 17 property owners are defendants in the lawsuits — 13 in Avon, two in North Ridgeville, one in Grafton and one in Elyria.
For the past six months, NRG has attempted to obtain easements from property owners in Avon Lake, Avon, North Ridgeville, Elyria and parts of Carlisle, Eaton and LaGrange townships.
Before Tuesday’s court filings, NRG had filed a letter of notification with the Ohio Power Siting Board in December seeking approval for the construction of a 24-inch underground natural gas pipeline. The pipeline is to run 20 miles from a tap-in point south of Grafton to the power plant in Avon Lake.
In that filing, NRG said they may pursue eminent domain on 63 properties to obtain easements. Tuesday’s common pleas filings are the first indication NRG, which has said it will utilize eminent domain only as a last resort, intends to take properties when agreements can’t been reached.
Dennis O’Toole, a lawyer representing NRG on the eminent domain cases, said Tuesday’s filings are the first step in the process and the first to be filed against property owners who NRG has been unable to reach an agreement with.
“We would have preferred easement negotiation, but it just wasn’t possible to do that,” O’Toole said.
NRG has said the only way to keep the power plant open is to convert it to natural gas from coal. The power plant’s previous owner, Genon, planned to close the plant because it said the cost of meeting new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pollution guidelines wasn’t economically feasible. Pollution control devices would have cost $422 million, officials said previously, and building a 20-mile pipeline is less costly, although NRG has not said how much the pipeline project would cost.
The pipeline will require 50-foot permanent easements in most cases, and temporary easements along the route will be necessary during construction. NRG also will remove about 67 acres of trees to make way for the pipeline.
There are two one-acre gas metering stations along the proposed route at tap-in locations. The proposed pipeline would tap in to a gas line owned and operated by Dominion East Ohio southwest of Grafton, who would also design, build and operate the metering station.
In its filing with the Ohio Power Siting Board, NRG said easements are necessary on 155 parcels and 36 have been granted so far, while easement negotiations are in the final stages with the owners of 56 other parcels.