NIMBY Activism Will Not Halt NEXUS Pipeline Project

Adriana Teitelbaum, Contributing Writer

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.