Students, Communities Protest Proposed Pipeline

Eliza Guinn, Copy Editor

The fight to stop the NEXUS pipeline continues, as Communities for Safe and Sustainable Energy and Students for Energy Justice join forces with landowners along the route of the proposed pipeline to prevent its construction.

According to John Elder, a member of Communities for Safe and Sustainable Energy, the pipeline must be operational by this time next year for the company to meet its contracts.

“They’re under a lot of pressure to get this done,” Elder said.

The proposed pipeline will pass very close to Reserve Avenue, but according to Elder, that road doesn’t actually appear on the provided map at all.

“People looking at it don’t realize there’s a street with houses all along it,” he said.

As of now, NEXUS plans to submit the final proposed route to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the end of November, according to Elder. Spectra Energy’s proposed natural gas pipeline passes through Ontario, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio.

“A lot of people are waiting to see what their maps show at that time, but I have no indication that as far as the stretch just south of here which transects the city of Oberlin, that there’s any change,” Elder said.

College junior CJ Blair, a member of SEJ, said that the student organization has been focusing on instituting community charters and city ordinances along the proposed route of the pipeline in an effort to prevent its construction.

The group has primarily been working in Youngstown, a town that has suffered from a number of earthquakes since the government began constructing injection wells. A community ordinance banning fracking was on the ballot for the fifth time this year in Youngstown, losing by only 345 votes according to Tish O’Dell, a staff member of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

The board of elections was responsible for attempts to prevent the ordinance from even appearing on the ballot, she said, leading to suspicion about biased election results. She said that community members have demanded a recount, which will take place later this month.

CELDF is working to expand the number of communities with anti-pipeline ordinances as well as to inform people about the dangers of building pipelines near residential areas. O’Dell said that CELDF is working on a draft of an Ohio State Constitution amendment to protect communities on a larger scale, which will be released soon.

Oberlin’s Community Bill of Rights, passed by voters in 2013, outlawed the construction of new pipelines in the city.

“If NEXUS tries to survey someone’s property, they are violating local law,” O’Dell said. “And the city needs to enforce it.”

Blair agreed, emphasizing the importance of local democracy.

“Community Bills of Rights are just our avenue of saying, ‘You do have power over these corporations, there’s definitely an opportunity to assert yourself over them.”

There are a variety of safety concerns that come along with natural gas pipelines, including explosions that could potentially damage the nearby Oberlin fire department and nursing home. According to Elder, the proximity of the fire department would not be a benefit.

“All they can do is wait until somebody somewhere turns off the valves,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do to put out that fire. The worst case scenario is that the fire station itself is damaged.”

According to Blair, the pipeline could also contaminate the local watershed. The pipeline would be transporting 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day and, if damaged, would contaminate the drinking water.

Thomas Linzey, founder of CELDF, will be in Oberlin on Nov. 14 to discuss the roles of communities and corporate power.

A spokesperson for Spectra Energy did not respond to a request for comment.