Legal efforts to stop gas pipeline dealt blow by magistrate

NEXUS Gas Transmission Image
NEXUS Gas Transmission Image

CLEVELAND (AP) — A federal magistrate in Akron has dealt a significant blow to efforts by some Ohio property owners to stop a high-pressure natural gas pipeline from being built.

U.S. Magistrate Kathleen Burke in a written recommendation filed Monday said the U.S. District Court in northern Ohio lacks jurisdiction to consider a lawsuit filed in May by more than 60 property owners that sought to prevent the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from approving construction plans for the 250-mile-long NEXUS pipeline.

The $2 billion project is designed to carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day from the Utica and Marcellus shale fields in Appalachia across northern Ohio and into Michigan and Ontario, Canada. NEXUS is a partnership between Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge and Detroit-based DTE Energy.

The project originally was a partnership between DTE and Houston-based Spectra Energy, which merged with Enbridge earlier this year and is now headquartered in Calgary. Opponents say FERC shouldn’t be able to violate their property rights for the benefit of a foreign corporation.

Burke’s report said opponents can object administratively to FERC and then to a U.S. appeals court if the regulatory agency approves the project. U.S. District Judge John Adams will decide whether to accept Burke’s recommendation, a move that would likely result in the lawsuit being dismissed.

One of the leaders in the effort to stop the pipeline acknowledges the lawsuit is now imperiled. Medina county resident Paul Gierosky said opponents aren’t giving up.

“We’ve come too far; we’ve learned too much; and we’re not alone,” Gierosky said. “There are 200 organizations around this country asking Congress to hold hearings on the abuse of power and law by FERC.”

If Adams dismisses the lawsuit, property owners will appeal his ruling to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Gierosky said.

“Maybe we have a better chance there,” he said. “I thought we had a good chance here.”

A NEXUS spokesman told The Medina Gazette the company is pleased with Burke’s recommendation and looks forward to “prompt FERC approval” of the project. The company had originally said it planned to complete construction and have gas flowing by late fall.

The U.S. Senate removed one impediment for NEXUS approval a week ago when it confirmed the nominations of two new FERC commissioners, restoring a quorum that will allow the commission to resume voting on projects.

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