Neighbors Against NEXUS now CORNWritten by Don Lee | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Opponents of a proposed pipeline’s route through eastern Fulton County are finding strength in numbers — and their local organizer is finding optimism in negotiating from that position of strength.
The company behind the proposed NEXUS natural gas transmission line took interest in the group’s proposal to route the line away from heavily populated areas in the county, said Liz Athaide-Victor, the Swancreek Township woman who first organized local opposition.
The group, which started in December as Neighbors Against NEXUS, is now calling itself the Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Coalition to Reroute NEXUS (CORN), she said. CORN is a grassroots group centered around Medina County, south of Cleveland, that has had some success getting NEXUS to change its proposed route.
Athaide-Victor said she learned of CORN when researching the NEXUS pipeline after she received a letter from Spectra Energy, the Texas company behind the NEXUS project. She said she attended a meeting of another group opposing the pipeline in Medina County, but later heard from Paul Gierosky, the organizer of CORN, and realized she and the Medina County property owner shared the goal of rerouting, not stopping, the pipeline.
“We started talking, and people started calling Paul, and we decided to work together all along the pipeline [route],” she said.
Athaide-Victor thinks the strategy might be working; at a recent meeting she noticed Spectra looking over a proposed re-route she presented in December at a Swancreek Township Board of Trustees meeting.
The renamed group still allies with other groups simply opposed to the pipeline, citing such concerns as safety of the pipeline itself, property rights, groundwater protection, preservation of natural areas and the fact that the pipeline won’t benefit residential and small business customers because it’s designed to carry gas in large volumes to an export hub. Permanent buildings can’t be built over a pipeline, nor can trees be planted. However, farming can take place.
Athaide-Victor said she’s more hopeful lately because of the apparent receptiveness of pipeline officials to her alternate route, as well as news that the pipeline “study corridor” will be routed away from Oak Openings Preserve.
NEXUS spokesman Arthur Diestel has said in previous public statements the route as proposed last year is merely a “study corridor” which will be narrowed and “tweaked” as safety, land use and environmental factors are taken into account.
Though Athaide-Victor says she’s now “cautiously optimistic” that neighbors and NEXUS can work something out, not everyone in her group is willing to go that far.
Laura Cole, who hopes to start a residential farm for adults with autism on her Swancreek Township property that’s in the study corridor’s path, said she’s hesitant because of the way NEXUS representatives have behaved in the past.
Group members have said NEXUS representatives told them, incorrectly, their neighbors supported the pipeline, or threatened them with eminent domain seizure if right-of-way agreements couldn’t be negotiated. A letter from Terry Lodge, a Toledo lawyer representing five local advocacy groups, accused NEXUS of “bullying” and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which makes the rules governing pipelines, of allowing it.
Leaders in Summit County in Northeast Ohio were the first to approve a countywide resolution against the pipeline going through their county. The Ohio Farmers Union recently approved the first statewide resolution against the pipeline.
In Medina County, several townships approved resolutions against the pipeline nearly identical to resolutions approved locally by Swancreek, Providence and Waterville townships.
The next public forum on the project is set for 5-7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at Swanton High School, 601 N. Main St. Northwest Ohio CORN members plan informational pickets outside the forum. Another forum will take place 5-7:30 p.m. Feb. 12 at Central Park West, 3141 Central Park West Drive.