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UPDATED: Original NEXUS route receives government OK

  • FERC-OKS-ORIGINAL-ROUTE

    The final environmental impact statement issued Wednesday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission eliminated proposed route alternatives from further consideration. FERC evaluated alternatives but found that “none of these would offer a major environmental advantage over the proposed route,” according to the statement.

    ED BETZEL / CHRONICLE

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FERC DOCUMENT ONLINE

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s final environmental impact statement on the NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline project can be found at: https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2016/11-30-16-eis.asp

FERC-OKS-ORIGINAL-ROUTE

The final environmental impact statement issued Wednesday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission eliminated proposed route alternatives from further consideration. FERC evaluated alternatives but found that “none of these would offer a major environmental advantage over the proposed route,” according to the statement.

ED BETZEL / CHRONICLE Enlarge


The NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline received a recommendation for approval from the federal government Wednesday of the original route.

Environmental hurdles to building the $2 billion line can be adequately managed by the company and its partner, Houston-based Spectra Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced.

The announcement came in the form of a 541-page “final environmental impact statement” or FEIS on the project that is to originate in Columbiana County in eastern Ohio and travel through 10 counties, including Medina and Lorain, to Michigan and then to a hub in Canada.

The FEIS will be used as information for the three FERC commissioners to make a final decision on whether construction may begin as planned in early 2017, FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said shortly after the statement was posted online.

FERC Chairman Norman C. Bay, Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur and Commissioner Colette D. Honorable will use the impact statement to decide if:

  • the pipeline is needed
  • the project is environmentally sound
  • the rates for transport of natural gas from the Utica and Marcellus shale region in Ohio’s Appalachian Basin to markets in Michigan, Canada and elsewhere are “just and reasonable.”

Young-Allen said there is no deadline for a commission decision, but the early 2017 expected construction start likely means it will occur within weeks.

The FERC report concluded the project will “result in some adverse environmental impacts” but that those will be “reduced to acceptable levels with the implementation of (the companies’) proposed mitigation measures and the additional measures recommended by staff in the FEIS.”

Approximately 40 mitigation measures were listed.

“The issuance of the FEIS is another timely, major project milestone that keeps NEXUS on track,” Spectra spokesman Adam Parker said in a statement.

The project first was discussed in August 2014 and Parker said NEXUS provided input “from landowners, communities, key stakeholders and environmental permitting agencies.”

Parker’s statement said “the NEXUS project will not have a significant adverse effect on local communities.”

The statement said in the first five years of operation, tax revenue of $412 million will be generated with about $125 million coming to school districts in Ohio and Michigan.

Parker’s statement said that FERC “did not find any evidence that property values would diminish as a result of the pipeline.”

The company said the pipeline will be helpful to utility companies who are converting from coal to natural gas for generating electricity.

Legal challenges

FERC’s decision is likely to be followed by legal challenges from groups opposed to the project.

Paul Gierosky of York Township, a leader of the Coalition to Reroute NEXUS that advocated an alternative route through Medina County, has said his group will continue to pursue the issue even after the FERC makes all its recommendations.

The final environmental impact statement was a rejection of attempts to re-route NEXUS, Gierosky said, as the report said it “eliminated (the alternate routes) from further consideration.”

FERC “evaluated major route alternatives to the proposed pipeline route” but found that “none of these would offer a major environmental advantage over the proposed route,” according its statement.

Legal cases involving surveyors entering privately owned properties remain pending in Medina County Common Pleas Court.

Where in Lorain County

“Today’s decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission means the route for the NEXUS pipeline through Northeastern Ohio will come at the expense of property owners who will be forced to give up their land through eminent domain and receive nothing in return,” Gierosky said shortly after the FEIS was released.

“In Medina County, 71 percent of property owners — and five of six townships — affected oppose the route; in Lorain County it is 60 percent of property owners; in Summit County, 85 percent,” he said.

According to the FEIS filed Wednesday, the pipeline will cross three sensitive surface water areas in the more than 20 miles of Lorain County it will pass through, including the east and west branches of the Black River and the east fork of the Vermilion River.

Sensitive surface waters include water bodies that have been designated for intensive water quality management, waters containing federally or state-listed threatened or endangered species or critical habitats and any waters afforded national or state designated status.

The pipeline is also within three miles downstream of two surface water intakes on the west branch of the Black River and Black River Reservoir operated by the Oberlin Municipal Water Department. According to the filing the pipeline will impact more than 11 acres of land operated by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy by open cutting that land for the pipeline.

In Lorain County there are multiple landowners, parks and a statewide bike path within a quarter mile of the pipeline path, according to the filing.

Oberlin passed an anti-fracking ordinance in November 2013 known as the Community Bill of Rights. It bans “the extraction of gas and oil, along with associated activities, including the disposal of associated wastes, into injection wells within the city and its jurisdiction.”

John Elder, a member of the Committee for Safe and Sustainable Energy, the group that formulated Oberlin’s Community Bill of Rights has opposed the pipeline over the past two years while others have called not for its ban but a reroute to less densely populated areas.

Elder said NEXUS only has about half of its pipeline capacity committed, and FERC could have said “enough” with the pipeline project. Elder has said it is time for the nation and local communities to move away from non-renewable forms of energy.

“I was hoping FERC would exercise the authority it does have and see the whole pipeline picture,” he said. “Given the number of pipelines being constructed there is no need for NEXUS.”

Elder said he isn’t surprised by Wednesday’s announcement and from here out Oberlin will likely continue to fight the project as it moves forward.

“In any case it is banned in Oberlin by our city ordinance which prohibits fracking and fracking infrastructure,” Elder said. “How that will play out only time can tell.”

Contact Marina Malenic at (330) 721-4063 or nmalenic@medina-gazette.com.

Jon Wysochanski contributed to this report.



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