The Coalition to Reroute NEXUS presented an alternate route for the NEXUS Pipeline to the Lorain County Commissioners on April 1, continuing the debate surrounding the path of the pipeline — a 250-mile Spectra Energy project which crosses through Ohio, Michigan and Canada. If NEXUS accepts, the proposal will move the project’s path slightly south of the original expected route and prevent the pipeline from crossing through Oberlin.
Paul Gierosky, a member of CORN, said the proposal would minimize the pipeline’s interference with wetlands and structures such as houses and schools.
“The proposal that we made used industry standard software — the same software that NEXUS is using — to manage our route,” Gierosky said. “Our goal is to minimize the conflict. The two things we were able to analyze were the conflict with structure, so you’ve got residences, churches, schools; and the other piece was wetlands, acres of wetlands.”
The new route would minimize residential and structure conflicts by 70 percent across all affected counties. In Lorain County alone, the reroute would cause a 50 percent decrease in structural conflicts and a 99 percent decrease of wetland and environmental conflicts.
Overall, the pipeline is planned to cost around $1.5 billion. Gierosky explained that at that cost, the pipeline should cost about $6 million per mile to build. The new path would add 9.3 miles to the route, resulting in a $55 million cost increase. However, this figure doesn’t take into account the construction benefits of placing the line in less-populated areas and creating a straighter path, according to Gierosky.
“The [current] route would put the pipeline in the city of Green, which is a populated area with extensive numbers of homes and extensive land,” Gierosky said. “Going from a populated area like Medina County, they are going to reduce the costs of acquiring the land they need. We gave them a route [that] is much straighter.”
According to Gierosky, a straighter path will make the line easier to build and might even cut back on costs.
“The route they have is constantly making bends because they are going through a populated area, and they are looking for undeveloped land,” Gierosky said. “All of those bends cost money, and they are just harder to build. You can possibly run smaller compressor stations if there are less bends since there is less friction. It might cost them $55 million more, but there are offsets.”
Members of the community are concerned about the safety of the pipeline, including the small but potential risk that the pipeline could leak or cause an explosion. Creating a new route and creating a safety corridor would help offset these risks, according to Lorain County Commissioner Lori Kokoski.
Kokoski said the reroute would implement a 1,500-foot buffer zone, or a pipeline safety corridor. The blast radius is 1,500 feet so, should the pipeline blow up, everything outside of the safety corridor would be undamaged.
Gierosky said creating this safety corridor is CORN’s main goal.
“A pipeline safety corridor would be thoroughly engineered and carefully located,” Kokoski said. “We would put it in a place that would protect the safety of the public, the pipeline, people’s property values and demonstrate respect of people’s rights. If these pipeline companies had to put these pipelines in designated areas that were already set aside, they wouldn’t have the power to use eminent domain. They wouldn’t choose the route, it would be chosen for them, and the safety standards would be built in. In order to get this, we need some government agency to take action.”
Kokoski said that the reroute would mostly affect farmland which, unlike residential land, is still useable even after the construction of a pipeline.
“When you put a pipeline of this magnitude in my front yard, you change the value of my property,” Gierosky said. “You change what I can use it for. I cannot build a swimming pool. I can’t build a structure or a parking lot on it. I can’t even plant a tree. That is a change of use, and that changes the value. When you put a pipeline in farmland, you can still grow crops on it … There is not a change of use. We were sensitive to the safety setback and the property valuation and the ultimate designated use of the land.”
Gierosky claims that CORN’s route is better because it is sensitive to the community’s needs and land usage.
“Who knows your property better than you?” he said. “[The current] route was designed on a computer in Houston, by a young man in his first job out of college. They told him to start here and get us there in a shorter distance. He had never been to Northeast Ohio. Our route is better because we were being sensitive to the safety issues associated [with] the pipeline and the designated use of the land.”
Kokoski said that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has to approve the route, and then NEXUS has to review and accept it. Currently, NEXUS is reviewing the proposal but has not commented on its viability. If the reroute is not accepted, due to eminent domain laws, the land can still be seized.
“We can’t stop them from putting it in, but we can try to get them to put it in a place where it has less effect on people’s property,” Kokoski said.