Safety, Property Rights Unite Landowners Against Pipeline

  • Anti-pipeline activists outside Nexus pipeline meeting, Wadsworth, Ohio. Credit: Julie Grant

February 6, 2015

While energy companies push to build new pipelines to transport natural gas, many landowners are becoming concerned. The Nexus pipeline would run 250 miles from gas wells in southeast Ohio through Michigan to Canada, and it’s drawing opposition from landowners concerned about their safety and property rights.

Paul Gierosky isn’t what you might expect in an anti-pipeline activist. He’s a businessman. He and his wife Elizabeth have been renovating their dream home in fast-growing Medina County, in northeast Ohio, for the past two years. Sitting among the trees, it’s got the feel of an upscale cabin, with wood beamed ceilings and large windows.

“And we wanted to be able to see the land, because it’s so beautiful. So really from every room you can see outside and see the property.”

But before they even finished moving in, the Gieroskys got a notice: their new property was in what’s called a study corridor for the Nexus pipeline.

Nexus is a joint venture of DTE Energy of Detroit and Spectra Energy of Houston.

The pipeline would start in southeastern Ohio, and head north and west, through their property, as well as hundreds of others on its way to Michigan and Canada.

The company wants to survey the Gierosky’s front yard, to see if they can dig it up to lay their new line. The more the Gieroskys looked into it, the more upset they got, “Our first concern started out to be safety.”

Nexus would be 42-inches wide. Gierosky holds his arms high and wide in the air above his head, “Do you understand how big the pipeline is?”

Gierosky worries what would happen if someone accidentally shoveled into it, “The experts are saying that there’s so much pressure that the heat that’s going come through a small crack or small orifice is going to self ignite, so we’re going to have an explosion.”

He and a coalition of other concerned citizens from around the state have joined together to get the pipeline re-routed through a less densely populated area. And they’ve convinced many local township and county governments to join them.

Nexus holds public meetings

Three hundred concerned landowners, farmers, local officials and others showed up at a public meeting in Wadsworth, Ohio, held by Nexus this week. A hundred blue-shirted Nexus representatives were there ready to answer questions.

Still, Maureen Hardy was disheartened. She got notice in recent months that a pipeline compression station was planned near her house. She didn’t even know what it was. But she’s worried it's loud and polluting, “I’ve talked to several different people from Nexus and gotten several different answers,” Hardy said.

Nexus spokesman Arthur Diestel says the company is holding meetings like this all month to hear concerns, before finalizing the pipeline route.

“There’s nothing set in stone. This route will continue to evolve over the course of the next year.”

Nexus has started the permitting process through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, which needs to approve the pipeline route.

FERC’s Joanne Wachholder is manager of the government’s review.

“We have engineers that review safety. We have biologists, like myself, that review the waters and wetlands and endangered species and vegetation. We have cultural resource experts to make sure that historic preservation areas are not disturbed.”

But some landowners at the meeting don’t believe FERC will address their concerns. Mario Pasolini lives in Seville, a small farming community. He says FERC will approve Nexus.

“No doubt about it. They’re in the business to rubber stamp pipelines.”

Some landowners plan to fight eminent domain

Pasolini and landowners he’s joined with want to stop the pipeline from being built. He plans to fight Nexus in court. If they try to take his property, he plans to argue that eminent domain is only supposed to used for a public use, like a highway or railroad.

“This is a private, fortune 500 company called Spectra Energy, and they’re in this to make money.”

Pasolini says the gas is heading for Canada, and isn’t going to be a public good in Ohio. Nexus says they’re are talking with possible gas customers along the pipeline route.

A push for a pipeline safety corridor

Paul Gierosky’s coalition of landowners isn’t trying to stop the project. They’re pushing to create a pipeline safety corridor. Nexus is one of at least four pipelines currently proposed in the same general direction through Ohio. Gierosky wants them co-located away from population centers, as well as rivers, forests and other natural areas.

“The companies would not be coming through this neighborhood and needing the power of eminent domain to locate their pipes, because the corridor would already be established.”

Gierosky says back in October, all he cared about was keeping the pipeline off his own property. Now, he’s come to care about the farmers, parents, and other people in his coalition, and he wants to protect them all.

Nexus plans to submit a formal application to FERC later this year.

Images top to bottom: Nexus pipeline map courtesy Spectra Energy; Paul and Elizabeth Gieorsky at their home in Medina County, Ohio; Nexus pipeline developers' public meeting in Wadsworth, Ohio; Anti-pipeline activists outside Nexus meeting in Wadsworth. Photos by Julie Grant.