Council muscles up to fight NEXUS pipeline

By Valerie Urbanik -

Ninety-five feet.

That’s how close the proposed NEXUS gas transmission pipeline is expected to pass near one Reserve Avenue home.

Oberlin council members agreed in a special meeting Monday to hire the law offices of Carolyn Elefant to work with city law director Jon Clark in fighting Spectra Energy’s 255-mile natural gas pipeline.

That battle rises from the 2013 passage of an Oberlin Bill of Rights, which bans industrial activities connected to natural gas fracking, including piping the gas through the area.

Spectra filed Nov. 20 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a certificate that would pave the way for construction.

“The maps attached to the application, to no surprise, indicate that the proposed pipeline will pass through the city of Oberlin, through the Ramsey right-of-way, which is owned by the city, and through a joining piece of land which was recently acquired by the Western Reserve Land Conservatory,” Clark said.

The pipeline is expected to pass near several buildings along Oberlin’s southern border including homes on Reserve Avenue, Welcome Nursing Home, Oberlin fire station, Splash Zone, and the city’s recreation complex.

“The closest proximity to one of those facilities is approximately 95 feet from one or more of the condominiums located along Reserve Avenue,” Clark said.

“I’m concerned about its proximity to the fire station and the nursing home but especially, my goodness, 95 feet from a house where people live,” said councilman Bryan Burgess. “This is just unbelievable that we would put such a dangerous thing right on someone’s door step.”

He said the pipeline’s closeness to homes might grab FERC’s attention — but not the fire station or nursing home.

“For those of us that live at the Reserve it’s a tremendous concern,” said resident Ann Ingram. “It’s just too close.”

Clark said Spectra Energy’s filing triggers a time line for FERC’s review on the environmental impact of the pipeline and to evaluate whether landowners’ concerns have been addressed.

“It also triggers a time line for the formal involvement of those who wish to formally participate in the form of an intervenor in the proceedings,” he said.

Clark expects to review the notice any day. After receiving it, the city will have 20 days to file a notice of intervention, which would allow Oberlin officials to have a more detailed involvement in the process.

“Anyone can make comments but only intervenors can file motions and appeal decisions of FERC,” Clark said. “It’s important the city participates in the review process. Only through formal participation through the rules of FERC will the relevant issues and issues of Oberlin and others be heard and considered by FERC.”

Clark believes the best chance Oberlin has of being heard and moving the pipeline is by having a thorough understanding of FERC’s review process and procedures. Elefant has more than 20 years experience in that area.

She has been devoted to land owners, environmental groups, and others involved with FERC, Clark said.

“It’s clear she’s well versed in the process and she has prior experience representing others in FERC’s proceedings that I believe would be extremely helpful to the city in this matter,” he said.

“I think that our chances of prevailing are better with her than going alone,” Burgess said.

Councilwoman Kristin Peterson echoed that sentiment.

“It’s certainly the first chance to block it and get a route change,” she said. “The more we can work together in a collaborative fashion the better it is.”

Convincing the government to require the pipeline to run outside the city limits “will require aggressive participation in FERC’s proceedings, in particular during the initial phases of the FERC review,” Clark said.

Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.

By Valerie Urbanik