July 25, 2016

Partly cloudy

International pipeline company: Eminent domain would be ‘last resort’

Eminent domain could become an issue for residents with property along the route of a proposed 250-mile natural gas pipeline from Kensington, Ohio, to Dawn Hub, Ontario.

Arthur Diestel, a spokesman for Spectra Energy Co.’s NEXUS Gas Transmission project, said that while the company doesn’t use eminent domain as a negotiation tool, the company will exercise that power as a last resort.

“We begin every negotiation with the expectation that a mutual agreement will be made,” he said. “Over 90 percent of our negotiations end in a mutual agreement.”

Diestel said individual negotiations for easement rights begin with property appraisals by an independent real estate appraiser.

He said rights-of-way and land department agents will reach out to landowners in Medina County face-to-face within two weeks to answer questions, explain details of the project and to arrange meetings for the start of easement negotiations.

Diestel said Spectra plans to start surveying the route for the pipeline in late September.

“We need a place to start, to get boots on the ground,” he said.

The study corridor will be 600 feet wide to allow for future refinements that may come with landowner, environmental and construction concerns, Diestel said.

“Once field evaluations are complete, the pipeline corridor will be reduced to a much narrower width than would be necessary to construct the pipeline,” he said in a statement. “Typically, this is approximately 100 feet.”

He said that since the project is a proposed international pipeline, jurisdiction over it will be at the federal level.

“But we haven’t even gotten to that part of this project,” he said. “We’re early in the process and nothing has been proposed to any regulators yet.”

Diestel said NEXUS plans to hold public forums for residents over the next few years, but no dates have been determined yet.

Several residents brought more concerns and questions about the NEXUS Gas Transmission project to county commissioners Tuesday morning.

“We want answers for what our elected officials are doing proactively about this pipeline and to help us understand our rights,” Litchfield Township resident Laura Weldon said. “We’ve known about this pipeline for some time now, and at what point are they going to come up with direct answers.”

Commissioner Pat Geissman said she met with two spokesmen for Spectra Energy Co., one of several companies undertaking the pipeline project.

John Urbancich and Thomas Jelepis of CT Consultants, of Mentor, are acting as liaisons between Spectra and Medina County’s public officials.

“They said that this is really just a feasibility study to see if the pipeline is feasible for this area,” Geissman said.

Jelepis was contacted but directed questions to Diestel.

Geissman presented at the meeting a transcript of the questions she asked the men about the safety of the pipeline and the rights of residents and the answers she received, most of which can be found on Spectra’s website.

“It feels very slippery for you to be answering with the answers Spectra gave you,” Weldon said. “We ask you as our elected officials to look at our municipality. We would like to hear your representation of residents and the county not Spectra.”

Commissioner Steve Hambley said all three of the commissioners are conducting research from various sources to relay more information to the public.

“We are in the midst of examining this and it’s going to take time to get all of the answers we’re looking for,” he said.

Kathie Jones, a Sharon Township resident and co-founder of Concerned Citizens of Medina County, repeated her request that the commissioners hold a public meeting for residents who have concerns.

“People feel like they’re having to do all of the research and not being represented by their elected officials,” she said.

Geissman said Rep. Dave Hall, R-Millersburg, was the only state representative to respond to her request last week for the legislators to hold a public meeting about the pipeline.

“He told me that he didn’t know very much about the pipeline and would need to gather more information before holding a meeting,” she said. “I was shocked to hear that even state representatives didn’t have much information on this.”

Geissman said within the next two weeks she plans to hold a public meeting to inform residents as much as possible about the pipeline and to advise them to seek legal counsel before signing any documents that may allow Spectra’s surveyors or contractors access to their property.

Contact reporter Katie Anderson at (330) 721-4012 or kanderson@medina-gazette.com.

Katie Anderson About Katie Anderson

Katie Anderson covers Medina County government and the city of Wadsworth. She has been with The Gazette since July 2014. Contact her at (330) 721-4012 or via email at kanderson@medina-gazette.com.