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Court Rules Against Construction in Ohio City, Gives Oberlin Hope

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Construction on the NEXUS pipeline halted in the Northeast Ohio city of Green after the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals voted in a 2–1 decision to block the company from building within city limits. Members of Oberlin City Council and Students for Energy Justice, an organization at the College, are continuing work to raise awareness and protesting with hopes of achieving the same result.

Green spent $350,000 of the city’s annual budget of $32 million fighting the pipeline’s construction. Green Mayor Gerard Neugebauer claims he opposed the plan since he was hired more than two years ago, and this court ruling provides a reprieve — likely of several months — before any further arguments or court actions ensue.

Oberlin also has a history of protesting the pipeline’s construction. In early November, City Council rejected a $3,500 offer from NEXUS for legal rights to use property on the city’s south side, on the grounds that the Oberlin Community Bill of Rights prohibits it.

Residents have also raised concerns over the proposed route’s proximity to homes, businesses, and the city fire station, as well as its possible negative impacts on local wetlands. As City Councilmember Bryan Burgess noted, the company filed a case under eminent domain but did the exact opposite.

“It’s interesting, because the concept of eminent domain is taking private property for public purpose,” Burgess said. “In this case, NEXUS wants to take public property and use it for private purpose.”

SEJ has held many meetings over the past two years to discuss ways to raise awareness on campus and join in the protest. College senior and SEJ member Christopher Kennedy said there’s some history behind the organization’s efforts.

“The group was a part of campaigning to pass the Oberlin Community Bill of Rights before anyone even knew of the pipeline,” Kennedy said. “We’ve tried over the years to build a coalition with other cities. Last year, we held direct action training for community members to help raise awareness.”

While construction in Green has been suspended, it is already underway in other cities across Ohio and Michigan, since the pipeline was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in August and given final approval just last month.

The future for Oberlin remains unclear because the legal aspects of the project are so nuanced, but Burgess said he remains hopeful.

“Oberlin City Council was briefed on the status of our case regarding NEXUS and FERC last Monday after the council meeting,” Burgess said. “Since then, there have been positive developments in the federal case between Green, Ohio, and the Ohio EPA. I remain positive that Oberlin is justified in its opposition to the pipeline and encouraged that the courts see merit in our case. The process will take time, but we are committed [to] protecting the health and safety of our community.”

To combat the pipeline and raise awareness, SEJ is planning to continue testing local water sources to collect data on pollution, to initiate a fundraiser to raise support for the Makwa Initiative, and to organize informational talks about the pipeline.

The group also plans to launch a social media campaign to raise awareness around the issue.

“We are really excited that the pipeline has been halted, but have not moved onto new issues as we know how easy big companies seem to get out of these situations,” said sophomore and SEJ member Eliza Amber. “We see it as an opportunity to get more people involved so when construction restarts we have a bigger impact. We will be launching a major social media campaign in the next week to get people talking about it.”

According to College sophomore and SEJ member Alex Chuang, SEJ is planning to launch a publicity campaign on NEXUS.

“We don’t think we’ve done a good job of making this a College issue,” Chuang said. “This isn’t an Oberlin-specific issue. It’s a global issue. It’s about fighting oppression.”

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Established 1874.