Pipeline Under Pressure: Battle over proposed NEXUS route being fought yard by yard
MEDINA, Ohio -- The beauty of Jon Strong's property in Medina County makes its own case for preservation.
"It's just a special spot," Strong told us, as we toured the natural spaces of his land. But the need for natural gas may have a case too. Houston-based Spectra Energy Corporation and Detroit-based DTE Energy are now considering a plan to put a pipeline beneath the ground near Strong's home, whether he likes it or not. "It's crazy. It's just not right," said Strong.
Known as the NEXUS project, the pipeline would create a 200-mile long, high-pressure super highway for natural gas, stretching from Columbiana County in southeast Ohio to the Michigan border and extending 50 miles into Canada.
Though many can agree pipes may be the safest way to move the gas, video and pictures of natural gas explosions in other states are keeping them up at night. They know even the smallest cracks can cause the kind of blast that doesn't just kill, it incinerates.
Kyle Rohrig calls the pipeline a "ticking time bomb." The Guilford Township resident recently learned NEXUS may even have the right to his land, after he told surveyors to leave.
"They threw out that 'we have the power of eminent domain. If you want to take us to court, that's your right. But 9 times out of 10 you're going to lose,'" he said. "We're losing our rights as American citizens. And someone has to stand up and say no," said Jon Strong.
Spectra and DTE emphasize an exact route in Ohio has yet to be determined. That's good news for residents like Rohrig and Strong who say every day is another step in their favor. But, make no mistake, the men remain eager to fight to keep that line as far from people as possible.
WKYC looked into the safety records of both Spectra and DTE. We found no connection to pipeline ruptures, but did note federal fines over issues including corrosion, equipment failure and maintenance.
Channel 3 reached out to NEXUS to ask if we could follow a surveyor to show how they went about their work. The company turned down our request, citing that the presence of television crews would disturb the privacy of landowners.
The proposed route of the NEXUS pipeline could take it right through the town. Chrissy Lingenfelter is a planner with the City of Green. "We're proud of the quality of life we have in the City of Green and this is impacting it," she said. Lingenfelter says the path cuts too close to not only power lines, but also to a school, businesses and even protected wetlands.
Residents are worried too, since there isn't much they can do with their land once a pipe goes in. "I just don't believe the compensation is going to be anything to what it's going to do to the value of your property. I mean it's going to be peanuts," said Bob Malone.
Then, there is always the fear of a blast, like the one that happened last spring in West Virginia. State regulators are still looking into what may have caused two natural gas pipelines to rupture within hours of each other in Marshall County, although heavy rains that may have destabilized soil are suspected. The pipelines were carrying condensate, a mix of petroleum products found in natural gas.
Federal regulators are reviewing NEXUS. Sources say planners are optimistic about moving the gas by 2017, while some residents now look to Oakland County in Michigan as a model for a place that rose up to keep a pipeline out.
Despite signs in their yards, people we spoke with say they are not against a pipeline. They just want it somewhere else less populated, and they are going as far as to work through the City of Green to draft an alternate route. "It would go through rural areas and have less environmental impact and less human impact," said Lingenfelter of the plan, which would add about ten miles to the proposed route.
The exact cost of that plan is unclear.
Milan, Ohio -- In the picture-perfect town that gave birth to Thomas Edison, residents are inventing ways to keep NEXUS out. Robert Wheeler is a great great grandnephew to the famous inventor and hoped his home's historic status would be enough.
"It's important in history I think," Wheeler told us adding, "for them it's purely profit. For us, we get the scar across the land and we get the buried dynamite factory behind our house. And I want to have no part of this."
From cell phones to surveillance cameras, residents across Ohio this year have been watching waves of surveyors come on to their properties at times without permission. On Facebook, you'll find chapters of a group called CORN, the Coalition to re-route NEXUS. Its members are people trying to tackle the learning curve that comes when taking on big gas.
"They are intimidating people. And people are caving from intimidation," Wheeler said.
The frustration for some is made worse when you follow the money. This past year we found the two companies behind NEXUS spent more than $25,000 in campaign gifts for dozens of state representatives and senators. The giving goes all the way to Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is seeking the Republican ticket heading into the presidential election in 2016. While homeowners have not been presented with anything, Walter Giebeler doesn't even want to know the offer on his land. "They want something I have. And I don't want to get rid of it," Giebeler said.
The sign in his yard speaks for itself. He hopes it is clear enough and the push back is strong enough to push the pipeline somewhere else.
Throughout our interviews, we were hard-pressed to find anyone eager to lend their property to NEXUS or confirmed customers in Ohio who would use the gas. At this point, it appears that the lion's share would be sold to Canada should the pipeline be built; not here in Ohio.