Pipeline to Transport Gas through Oberlin


Hazel Galloway

The proposed NEXUS pipeline will run through northeast Ohio and into Michigan. According to certain Oberlin community members and city officials, Spectra Energy, the company behind the pipeline, has provided conflicting information on the details of the project.

Sarah Conner

Spectra Energy has moved forward with its plan to build a 250-mile gas pipeline through Oberlin. Spectra, an S&P 500 company, plans on investing up to $1.5 billion into the NEXUS pipeline, which would span from upper Ohio to Ontario and deliver up to 2 billion cubic feet of gas to the Midwest and Canada every day.

Earlier this month, the City Council submitted its Community Bill of Rights informing Spectra that they consider the pipeline illegal. Spectra’s responses — which, according to several community members, have been largely inconsistent — have led to some confusion surrounding the verification of the company’s installation plans.

“[In] the meeting I went to with Spectra officials, every single person I talked to told me something different,” said AntiFrack member and College junior Olivia Ashmoore. “I have a really hard time sorting out what’s true and how that corresponds with what’s happening and what land owners are expecting.”

The City Council has not been corresponding with Spectra in accordance with the Oberlin Community Bill of Rights, which requires the city to not aid the company in any way. The council has no immediate future plans in dealing with the corporation.

“We are waiting to see what company in any way. The council has no immediate future plans in dealing with the corporation.

“We are waiting to see what happens next,” City Manager Eric Norenberg said. “It’s expected to be a long process. I don’t think any of us want to burn too much energy until we know what direction things might take.”

According to Spectra, the project will create a significant number of local jobs during the construction phase and will produce tax revenue for state and local governments. The company plans to hold a job fair in 2017. Previously, it was thought that Spectra would contract labor out to unionized workers.

“We are currently working with Ohio State University to conduct an economic impact study to determine the approximate impact the project will have on the region regarding jobs and economic output,” Spectra spokesperson Arthur Diestel said in an email to the Review.

The spokesperson also noted that Spectra’s main goal is to “positively impact” the communities where they operate and where their employees reside.

Some, however, are skeptical of the company’s positive attitude.

“When a pipeline is being dug, the jobs are temporary,” Ashmoore said. “There are not any long-term jobs being created by this construction. The only long-term jobs would be at the compressor stations, and even those are not that many. … That being said, it might provide employment for a few months.”

Spectra has also said that communities surrounding the pipeline will have access to the gas.

“The NEXUS Project will increase access to reliable, clean-burning and cost-effective supplies of natural gas to serve local distribution companies, industrial users and natural gas-fired power generators in the Ohio, Michigan, Chicago and Ontario markets,” Diestel said.

This information, however, appears to be in direct conflict with what the company had previously told members of the Oberlin community.

According to Norenberg, Council and community members were told several weeks ago that all of the pipeline’s gas would travel to Canada. Norenberg was not able to confirm that Oberlin would have access to the gas or whether or not the city would choose to use it.

“One of the things about natural gas is that once it’s in the pipeline you can’t tell where it came from. So, we have had some conversations over the past couple of years knowing some of our residents have concerns about fracking and its safety. There isn’t a way to buy or not buy gas based on its source.”

Norenberg’s concerns have been echoed by a large number of College students and community members. Negative effects of hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as “fracking,” include numerous environmental, safety and health concerns. One of the most troubling concerns is the large quantity of carcinogenic radon that exists within the Marcellus Shale, a profitable natural gas reserve underneath eastern Ohio that is currently being fracked.

These concerns, in addition to the the city’s projected climate positivity, may prevent the City Council from allowing residents to use the gas.

“We have a climate action plan that’s been approved by our City Council that contemplates that over the next few years we are going to reduce our carbon footprint and keep being more energy efficient and get to the point where we are climate positive [and therefore won’t be using gas] by 2050,” said Norenberg. “From the standpoint of where our gas is from, it doesn’t matter.”

In an attempt to disassociate itself from fracking and all related hazards, Spectra continues to maintain that NEXUS is solely a shipper of natural gas. If the gas meets certain quality standards and its contractual requirements, the federal government requires that NEXUS transport the gas.

“Fracking is a technique used in the production of natural gas; NEXUS will solely be a shipper of natural gas,” Diestel said. “If natural gas meets quality specifications and the shipper is meeting other contractual requirements, NEXUS will be required by the federal government to transport the natural gas.”