GREEN Despite a ruling that potentially signals the green light, the fight will continue in an effort to reroute the proposed NEXUS gas pipeline away from the city of Green and other more densely populated areas.
On Friday, the Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved plans for the 36-inch diameter pipeline, which traveling through northern Stark and southern Summit counties, will transport natrual gas 255 from miles from the Utica and Marcellus shales in Southeast Ohio to users in other parts of the state, Michigan and Canada.
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.
"We are deeply disappointed in this initial approval of the Nexus pipeline by the new FERC commissioners," said of Green officials in a prepared news release. "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' as stated in their opinion. However, there are significant environmental, economic and social implications with the pipeline routed through the city of Green. We will continue to engage all our legal options to oppose this pipeline to ensure our community is protected."
The Coalition to Reroute NEXUS (CORN), a grassroots organization that is also fighting an alternative route for the pipeline, says it also will continue its battle.
"The new Commissioners at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission didn't waste any time using their rubber stamp," said CORN co-founder Paul Gierosky.
According to Gierosky, NEXUS must still obtain several permits including the 401 Water Quality Certificate from the OHEPA and the Clean Water Act Section 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
"In addition, we have not exhausted the administrative rehearing and judicial appeal avenues available to us," Gierosky said. "We intend to do so.
The FERC ruling had been delayed due to its board not having a voting quorum. However, in early August, President Donald Trump appointed filled out the FERC board with new appointees. Barring delays due to litigation, the project could begin in January, with construction taking seven to 10 months.
Who is CORN?
Gierosky, of Medina County's York Township, is one of the co-founders of the group. He said the reason he first got involved is because the pipeline is expected to go through his front yard and he believes his Constitutional rights are being violated. The group is non-partisan and is a non-profit.
The CORN group is made up of community members from across several counties and was formed three-years ago.
"I started going around and meeting my neighbors when I first moved in," Gierosky said. "I found many of them were elderly with no Internet and no way to defend themselves against this project."
He said the group started consisting of property owners along the route and now it has expanded to include township and city leaders along with a wide range of people ranging from college students to great grandparents.
Gierosky, who has traveled to Ohio Gov. John Kasich's office and has made two trips to Washington, D.C., said one of his main concerns is the broad use of eminent domain being used by a foreign company to take people’s property. He said 87 percent of what is being transported is going to end up in Canada.
"I have come to realize these elected officials don’t represent us," Gierosky said. "After three years, I have learned so much how the process is rigged against property owners."
He stressed he is not against the pipeline, but he said stealing people’s property defies common sense.
"It’s all about money and greed," Gierosky said.
Original plans for the pipeline took the project right through Tammy Daly’s backyard in Green. The plans were somewhat altered because of the close proximity to the Portage Lakes Career Center, Green Intermediate School and Green Middle School.
Daly said she is happy about the minor reroute, but she said it just pushed the project onto someone else’s property. NEXUS has been purchasing several homes in Green, but Daly encourages residents not to sell out because it effects neighboring property owners.
The Rover Pipeline, which runs a similar route to NEXUS, just a little further south is under construction.
"Why do we need both of them," Daly said.
In April, workers on the Rover Pipeline inadvertently released 2 million gallons of drilling mud into a 6.5 acres of wetlands just south of the Tuscarawas River near Navarre. Daly is concerned about the impact the NEXUS pipeline could have on Singer Lake Bog and the two Class 1 dams that are in the path in Green.
"The construction alone could kill Singer Lake," Daly said. "Why they want to go through a city with a high population is beyond me?"
CORN has a complaint pending before Judge John R. Adams in the U.S. District Court in Akron.
Gierosky said the fight locally stretches across several states.
"Property owners and communities across this nation are rising up to defend themselves from the harms that are being inflicted as a result of the way the FERC misuses its authority," Gierosky said.
He faults Congress for creating the mess and allowing FERC to act as it does.
"That is why we must get Congress to do the work Congress should be doing to protect our communities and rein in this out of control agency," Gierosky said. "In the present, we await Judge Adams decision. In the near future, we are prepared to use ever resource available to right this terrible injustice."
Gierosky said CORN had the option to file a lawsuit to block the construction either in the 9th District Court in Washington, D.C., or the 6th District Court in northern Ohio. The group chose the 6th District hoping for a home-court advantage, according to Gierosky.
U.S. Magistrate Kathleen Burke, however, recently recommended that the U.S. District Court of Northern Ohio lacks the jurisdiction needed to consider a lawsuit filed by the 60 property owners.
Attorney David Mucklow said he plans to respond to the recommendation, urging that the judge can make a decision
"This recommendation doesn’t mean we are done with the case by any means," Mucklow said. "These pipelines don’t belong next to residents considering how dangerous they are."