By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Earlier this month, Nexus pipeline officials filed a lawsuit against all holdout property owners. Bowling Green was one of those communities that had refused to grant the pipeline an easement to cross its land.
This time around, the pipeline company was armed with eminent domain.
On Oct. 11, Bowling Green agreed to a magistrate’s order to join in settlement discussions.
And on Friday, the city received an offer of nearly $80,000 from Nexus to cross city-owned land in Middleton Township.
“They were granted eminent domain powers. Now they’re exercising it,” said Bowling Green City Attorney Mike Marsh.
But local pipeline protesters see it differently. They see it as the city selling out.
“This morning we checked court records and found that on October 11 Mike Marsh silently signed away the city’s easement rights to Nexus pipeline,” Lisa Kochheiser stated. “The city has betrayed citizens’ trust and has scandalously kept it to themselves.”
Last December, Bowling Green City Council voted unanimously to not grant as easement for the Nexus pipeline. Concerns were expressed about the pipeline route running just 700 feet from the city’s reservoir at the water treatment plant.
“They have failed to inform the public that they aren’t willing to stand up for the will of the people,” Kochheiser continued.
But Marsh said the city and other holdout landowners across the state have lost to eminent domain. All that remains to be determined is the dollar amount that will be paid.
“We’re all under orders to try to negotiate settlements by Nov. 3,” he said. City officials have yet to discuss the $80,000 offer. “The real issue now is compensation.”
However, Kochheiser and attorney Terry Lodge pointed out that the village of Waterville continues to refuse compliance with the Nexus lawsuit. “The Village of Waterville has denied compliance with the Nexus lawsuit and is standing up for the rights of residents who passed their charter amendment prohibiting pipelines last year,” Kochheiser stated.
Waterville legal director Phil Dombey instead filed a reply, claiming that the village’s local charter amendment forbids the community from consenting.
Marsh said Waterville isn’t allowed to enter into negotiations because of its charter amendment.
Marsh added that Bowling Green did not give in on granting an easement.
“There’s been no grant of an easement,” he said. But since the pipeline has been given eminent domain powers, the city isn’t fighting it.
“We’re not contesting their ability to condemn the property,” Marsh said.
According to Lodge, Bowling Green’s action has given Nexus the ability to start construction on city-owned property.
“The City of BG has expressly consented to immediate possession – that is, Nexus can commence this moment to build across the BG land,” Lodge stated. “Immediate possession is a point of law that is being disputed by Oberlin and certainly Waterville and other property owners along the way, and the cases are divided on whether immediate possession is constitutional. Mike Marsh and the mayor have executed a complete and total laydown, without mentioning it publicly. This was deliberate, in order to make the charter amendment moot. It won’t, but it will not be surprising to see trenching and intense activity happening along this part of the Nexus route sooner than might otherwise have been the situation. By consenting so quickly, the city may have enabled accelerated construction across Wood County.”
Before this month, Nexus had already negotiated voluntary acquisition of easements on 97 percent of the tracts of land needed along the pipeline route. The project stretches 257.5 miles across Ohio and Michigan, to reach Canada with its 36-inch diameter natural gas transmission pipeline.
According to Kochheiser, Oberlin is also fighting and refusing to negotiate for payment.