Order clears the way for gas transmission across parts of Stark and Summit counties.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline Friday.

The order clears the way for NEXUS to build a 36-inch diameter pipeline across parts of Stark and Summit counties, and gives NEXUS power to take land through eminent domain proceedings.

Some landowners and municipalities along the route, including the city of Green, oppose the $2.1 billion project, which was challenged in state and federal courts.

Detroit-based DTE Energy and Spectra Energy, which merged this year with Enbridge, a Canadian company, are partners in the project.

The 255-mile pipeline will start near Hanoverton in Columbiana County and cross Washington, Nimishillen, Marlboro and Lake townships in Stark County before entering the city of Green.

The pipeline is designed to carry up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day from the Utica and Marcellus shales to users in Ohio, Michigan and Canada. (Information has been changed to correct an error at 12:20 p.m. 8/28/17)

DTE Energy estimated last month it would take seven to 10 months to build the pipeline once FERC approved the project.

In a news release Friday, NEXUS said it would give an updated 2018 in-service date after reviewing its construction plans and FERC’s decision.

“We are very pleased to reach this significant milestone and move one step closer to construction of the pipeline, which will diversify the region’s energy sources and generate significant economic benefits for local communities,” the news release said.

Conditions to meet

NEXUS must meet several conditions before it can start building the pipeline, including FERC approval of its construction plan.

One of FERC’s concerns is how NEXUS will drill a path for the pipeline beneath obstacles like rivers, lakes and highways.

The unrelated Rover Pipeline has leaked drilling slurry during its construction, including 2 million gallons in Bethlehem Township along the Tuscarawas River in April.

After the spill, FERC ordered Rover to monitor for and prevent leaks, and ordered it to drill through solid rock at the river crossing. The Commission added similar requirements for NEXUS, which crosses the Tuscarawas River in New Franklin.

FERC also is requiring NEXUS to repair or replace drainage tiles and springs damaged during construction, monitor crop productivity on farms crossed by the pipeline and develop a system for handling environmental complaints.

Long process

FERC’s decision Friday was the latest step in a contentious process that started in 2015 when NEXUS applied to build the pipeline.

Opponents argued against the pipeline, saying it was too close to populated areas, would harm property values and the environment and would hamper future economic development in the city of Green.

Officials in Green went so far as to offer an alternative route that would have sent the pipeline through southern Stark County, but FERC said no alternative offered a major environmental advantage to the route NEXUS favored.

Bureaucracy stalled the project earlier this year when resignations left FERC without a quorum of commissioners, but that changed when the U.S. Senate confirmed two of President Donald J. Trump's nominees this month.

Valerie Wolford, spokesperson for the city of Green, released a statement on FERC’s decision late Friday night.

“We are deeply disappointed in this initial approval of the NEXUS pipeline by the new FERC commissioners,” the statement said. “The City of Green continues to disagree with FERC’s finding that the alternative routes the City of Green proposed do not demonstrate a ‘significant environmental advantage’ in their opinion. There are many facets to this pipeline both environmental and economic, and we will continue to engage all our legal options to oppose this pipeline to ensure our community is not harmed.”

A lawsuit against the project brought by the Coalition to Re-route NEXUS is pending in federal court.

Paul Gierosky, a CORN board member, said he expected the judge to dismiss the case now that FERC had approved the pipeline.

“Obviously this is a very disappointing development, but I would say we expected this,” Gierosky said.

He said members of Congress weren’t interested in helping landowners stop a foreign company from taking their land to ship natural gas to Canada.

“How is this going to make us energy independent? How is this going to make America great again?” Gierosky asked. “Excuse me, if property rights are not sacred, as guaranteed by our Constitution, how close are we to tyranny?”

Reach Shane at 330-580-8338 or shane.hoover@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @shooverREP

Correction: The pipeline is designed to carry up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day from the Utica and Marcellus shales to users in Ohio, Michigan and Canada. The amount of gas transported daily was incorrect when this story was first published online 8/25/17.