Spectra filing suggests it will ignore Oberlin’s Bill of Rights and only bow to federal regulations

By Valerie Urbanik - vurbanik@civitasmedia.com

Oberlin’s Community Bill of Rights appears to mean nothing to Spectra Energy.

The multi-billion-dollar corporation turned in a document this month to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission addressing questions and comments people have submitted regarding the 256-mile NEXUS pipeline.

Several cities told FERC they passed ordinances or resolutions banning construction of the interstate natural gas transmission pipeline in their jurisdictions.

The Communities for Safe and Sustainable Energy wrote the Oberlin Bill of Rights, passed by voters in November 2013. It bans hydraulic fracturing and associated activities, all oil and gas extractions, transportation, and storage in Oberlin or within a 20-mile radius of the municipal limits.

But Spectra’s filing reinforced not-so-subtly that the company plans to ignore local laws.

“The NEXUS project is regulated by FERC under the (Natural Gas Act), which is the federal statute that establishes safety, environmental and other standards for interstate natural gas pipelines and related facilities,” Spectra’s document stated. “The commission’s proceeding provides the controlling mechanism for ensuring reliable, nationally uniform standards for interstate pipelines as directed by congress through federal legislation and as interpreted and applied by the United States Supreme Court.”

The response didn’t surprise John Elder, one of the authors of Oberlin’s Bill of Rights. “Except I thought there might be a more elaborate response,” he said.

Spectra’s response to the ordinances prohibiting the pipeline was two short paragraphs.

Elder said cities, townships, and park systems along the proposed pipeline have passed ordinances and resolutions prohibiting construction. “The city of Oberlin is unique that it had this filed before the FERC filing,” Elder said.

Spectra’s document states FERC and NEXUS closely evaluated local land uses and potential environmental, social, and economic impacts of the project along the proposed route. “NEXUS has and is continuing to evaluate and address these impacts in its resource reports and in other communications with stakeholders,” it said.

“Obviously, NEXUS is under a lot of pressure to keep to their timeline,” Elder said. He believes Spectra Energy hopes local residents will give up and not fight back after reading the response. “I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen,” he said.

However, Elder is unsure what CSSE’s next step of action will be.

Oberlin law director Jon Clark said the city did reference the Bill of Rights in its filing to intervene in FERC’s review process.

“We are advocating first there’s no need for this pipeline,” he said. If the project goes forward, the city asks that the pipeline follow an alternative route drafted by the city of Green, Ohio, which pushes the gas line south, away from Oberlin and closer to Wellington.

FERC is expected to also prepare an environmental impact statement that will address potential area problems.

The pipeline is expected to pass through 13 counties in Ohio and near Reserve Avenue in Oberlin and Pittsfield Township. It will transport 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

Spectra’s document also addressed procedural matters such as duration of period for comments, a hearing, how files are organized and labeled, the market need for pipeline, safety, and NEXUS’ proposed route.

A 21-day intervention and comment period was created for anyone interested in responding to Spectra Energy’s proposed project. That deadline is past, but FERC continues to accept and consider comments filed after the deadline.

The gas company’s document states people will have an opportunity to comment on the project when the commission releases its environmental impact draft. When that will be released is unknown.

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

By Valerie Urbanik