The Oberlin Review

NIMBY Activism Will Not Halt NEXUS Pipeline Project

Adriana Teitelbaum, Contributing Writer

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While many activists and public officials have been focusing their outrage on the Dakota Access Pipeline, Spectra Energy’s NEXUS pipeline is a more immediate threat lurking below public radar for Ohio and other Midwestern residents. By 2018, the NEXUS pipeline could potentially occupy over 255 miles of land stretching from Ohio to Western Canada. The pipeline, which will carry natural gas through Ohio, Michigan and Ontario, Canada, has been in the works since 2013.

According to the project’s website, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will not determine whether to approve the project until 2017. However, it is highly unlikely that the project will be halted, as it has been in development for more than three years and a group of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staffers recommended approval Nov. 30.

Across Ohio, there has been immense opposition to the pipeline. The Bowling Green City Council unanimously voted against the request to build part of the pipeline on city-owned land, despite a $151,000 compensation offer from Spectra. Residents of Medina, Ohio, plan on gathering in the town square Dec. 10 to express their opposition to the project.

Many skeptics are wondering whether resistance will be effective this late in the game. While localized resistance in towns or regions — Oberlin, for instance — may be successful in preventing the pipeline from cutting through those areas, the possibility of stopping the project entirely is slim. These protests, if they produce any tangible effect at all, would merely reroute the pipeline. The issue won’t be solved, only pushed away.

Take, for example, the vote in Bowling Green. According to The Toledo Blade, the project will either be rerouted or Spectra will attempt to use eminent domain laws to acquire the land, despite the fact that the City Council voted against allowing the pipeline on city land. While Bowling Green’s City Council may have attempted to resolve their involvement in the issue, the project will likely continue regardless.

In Oberlin, the Community Bill of Rights prohibits fracking or fracking-related infrastructure, theoretically blocking local construction of the pipeline. However, the city’s Bill of Rights is overruled by federal law and would likely lead to a legal battle between the city of Oberlin and Spectra. Even if the pipeline is successfully kept out of Oberlin, it will simply move to another location in Ohio. This type of “not in my backyard” or “NIMBY” activism has been criticized for its questionable ethics.

There is an obvious moral problem with opposing something only when it becomes personal. These NIMBY ethics set a precedent that there is no implicit issue with the pipeline, just that the residents of Bowling Green would prefer to not deal with it. In reality, there are several issues with the NEXUS pipeline that should be universally opposed.

Environmentally, the pipeline will cause severe damage. No NEXUS Pipeline, an organization dedicated to stopping the project, explains on its website how “construction would leave permanent degradation of our landscape, private properties, wildlife, forests, agricultural land and aquifers.” Potential ruptures would not only be devastating to the local environment but would also pose health risks to nearby residents. The organization then explains how “explosions involving pipelines of this size and pressure actually occur and are catastrophic. … Our communities’ emergency response facilities are not equipped to deal with such occurrences and the cost of developing the appropriate capability would be borne by local taxpayers.”

NIMBY activism doesn’t prevent any of these issues from occurring, it just pushes them onto someone else. Though it may seem like the only option in times of desperation, it should not be the go-to method for tackling environmental issues. Hazards like NEXUS can be prevented if the public becomes heavily involved early on and if we stop disregarding local government as unimportant or inefficient. At this point in time, it is unlikely that the pipeline can be stopped. In accordance with its own Bill of Rights, Oberlin should have done more than just attempt to prevent the pipeline from entering city limits. If local governments across the span of Ohio and Michigan met and worked together, perhaps the pipeline could have been stopped. Democracy only works if the majority of people are willing to participate and collectively organize, and this starts with actions as small as town council meetings or local elections.

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4 Comments

4 Responses to “NIMBY Activism Will Not Halt NEXUS Pipeline Project”

  1. Paul Wohlfarth on December 11th, 2016 12:00 PM

    Well you make the word NIMBY sound as if its a dirty word. The facts are the Oil & Gas industry run Ohio politics as well as our nations. Activists lement the fact that the average American in ignorate of the truth. The media does everyone a disservice when they dwell on the Dakota Access pipeline but ignore the realities in their own state. AP is one of the worst offenders, limiting Americans across the country of what is happening here in Ohio.

    The word NIMBY conjures up images of selfish landowners who are willing to dump their problems on others. In fact the FERC system of so-called regualtion does not protect Americans from the hazzards of pipelines. They, the industry, will tell you they obide by all regulatory laws but fail to tell you they basiclly write the laws by their lobbies. Landowners are up-in-arms over the fact there is no safety setbacks to these dangerous mega pipelines. Homeowners feel the government is not protecting their families by allowing these pipelines within 10 feet of their homes. Communities feel an energy corridor away from communities would be the best policy but the industry feels this would affect their bottom line and pushes back by buying our politicians and fostering unsafe setback policy.

  2. Terry Lodge on December 11th, 2016 1:07 PM

    I’m a longtime lawyer-activist in Toledo and on behalf of grassroots groups in Medina, Fulton, Wood and Lucas counties, and for the Sierra Club in Michigan, am handling a range of legal and organizing strategies against NEXUS, including antitrust, environmental violations, eminent domain bullying before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; challenging the Ohio EPA air quality permits to operate two of the four poisonous compressor stations that will be part of the pipeline; and defending a community rights charter change in Waterville, Ohio.
    Yes, there are a lot of NIMBYs in the opposition to NEXUS, but there are also a good many not-in-anyone’s-backyard opponents, among whom I count myself. We have a weak and corporate-dominated regulatory system. Environmental and business regulations have been rolled back under corporatist Republican and Democratic administrations at the state and federal levels. There is no “silver bullet” lawsuit to stop a climate-destroying pipeline. The strategy we are left with is piecemeal and guerilla in nature and aimed at undermining investor confidence in the $2Bn pipeline proposal. If we can create stumbling places for the megapipeline, we have a chance at bringing it down. The economics underlying NEXUS are shakey at best.
    So it is neither meaningless nor provincial that the BG city council acted as it did, nor that Oberlin has a bill of community rights in place. The stance of the BG council is a remarkable one and resulted from a groundswell of local not-in-anyone’s-backyard activism. Twelve miles northwest of Bowling Green is Waterville, a small city that just amended its charter to bar NEXUS from building through the town. Yes, the charter amendment will be savagely attacked soon by NEXUS. But the organizing value of the petition campaign and public education that led up to the vote has transformed hundreds.
    The harsh reality now is, as the fecklessness of the Obama era gives way to billionaire bias in the Trump administration, and the pre-existing reactionary politics of Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly, people must recognize that the main place they might exert countervailing power is at the local level. The people must use the tools they have and can create to say “no” and to demand better for their communities. We cannot depend on electeds at any level; we must build strategies close to the people – strategies which can be controlled and advanced by citizens.
    Ms. Teitelbaum has identified, but not clearly understood, the nuanced strategy of the uprising. We’re not done fighting back against NEXUS as some of us have done for better than two years. We welcome energetic young environmentalists and activists from Oberlin, to work with students at BGSU and other institutions and to work alongside us older diehards.
    As our latest Nobel winner and poet laureate penned long ago, “Don’t follow leaders, follow the parking meters.”
    – Terry Lodge, lodgelaw@yahoo.com

  3. Tish O'Dell on December 11th, 2016 1:18 PM

    With all due respect to the author of this piece, you have completely misrepresented the Oberlin Community Bill of Rights and what the Community Rights strategy is about. It is not NIMBYism at all. It is about challenging an unjust system and structure of law that keeps the people out of the decision making process but allows the industry and corporations to write the laws and regulations subordinating the people to their quest for profits. Community Rights is about attempting to change an unjust and immoral system that places corporate profits above the health and safety of people and nature. Grassroots movements start in communities, but we also have a state constitutional amendment written to challenge this system as well. Unfortunately it needs people to get behind it, people willing to take the time to understand what the problem is and what the proposed solution is and to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work necessary. I haven’t seen that in many places.

    As the CELDF Ohio organizer and President of the Ohio Community Rights Network I am always happy to explain the strategy to anyone who cares enough to ask. I was not contacted by this author or have not met her at any of my many meetings with groups in Oberlin. Community Rights and the Oberlin Bill of Rights is NOT about rerouting the pipeline to another community; it is about saying the people of Oberlin have passed a law that corporations must follow and we encourage every community to follow Oberlin’s. Athen’s , Broadview Hts and Waterville’s lead. Unfortunately reports like this completely miss the point and continue to mislead people to work against their own best interests.

  4. Keith Duerk on December 13th, 2016 1:55 PM

    While I agree that local communities should be working collectively, I don’t quite see the point in making these criticisms. Local legislation is surely an important part of making the desired change. Coordinated efforts between the oil industry and state and federal governments to manipulate and intimidate an uncooperative public have become so sophisticated, we are going to have to fight this battle in any way we possibly can.

Established 1874.