By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Bowling Green City Council chambers overflowed into the hallway Monday evening as people urged city leaders to not buckle to a pipeline company.
More than 20 speakers implored City Council to continue their commitment to green energy, rather than take steps backward in their environmental efforts. Once the meeting room exceeded its 66-person capacity, Fire Chief Tom Sanderson had to ask 40 others to listen to the meeting on the hallway speakers.
“I think this is a moment in our history” when Bowling Green has the opportunity serve the greater good, Laura Sanchez told council.
Monday was the second reading of an ordinance to grant Nexus Pipeline an easement to cross 29 acres of city land located in Middleton Township, about 2.5 miles east of the city’s water treatment plant. The third and final reading will be given on Dec. 5, when city council will vote on the ordinance.
The proposed natural gas pipeline would run 255 miles from fracking fields in eastern Ohio, across the state, to Michigan and end in Canada. Along its route, it will pass through Wood County, north of Bowling Green, then go under the Maumee River downriver from the city’s water intake. Once it gets to Waterville Township, a compressor station is proposed.
One by one, citizens stood up Monday evening and asked the city to fight the pipeline plans.
Lisa Kochheiser said the pipeline would intersect with a fault line, run near a quarry where blasting takes place, and be dangerously close to the city’s water reservoirs.
“This scenario is a recipe for disaster,” she said.
During a council meeting earlier this month, pipeline protesters were told that fighting the pipeline would ultimately cost the city money in legal fees, and do nothing to stop the natural gas line.
But on Monday evening, Aidan Hubbell-Staeble urged council to look beyond the monetary costs. “I would hope council does what is right for the community.”
Some of the speakers traveled from other communities fighting the same pipeline on the other side of the state. Rev. Sharon Kiesel, from Medina, said physicians in many states have called for a ban on fracking. Kiesel talked about “shale gas syndrome” causing many illnesses, and fracking wastewater being injected into wells.
“You have an opportunity here to defend yourself,” she said. “This is a huge moral issue. It puts profits over people’s health and safety.”
Tish O’Dell, from Broadview Heights, said pipeline companies look at communities “like Monopoly cards” they can acquire.
“They don’t care about the people in the communities,” O’Dell said. “You don’t have to make it so damn easy for them either.”
Paul Wohlfarth, of Ottawa Lake, Michigan, said Nexus pipeline officials have not been forthright about their plans. They are allowed to bury pipelines within 10 feet of a home, but then tell homeowners it won’t devalue their property. Meanwhile, there are gasline leaks and explosions about every other day somewhere in the country, he said.
Pipeline officials also tell farmers that their yields won’t be affected by the pipeline, yet most report diminished crop yields, he said.
Wohlfarth also accused Nexus of refusing to show how the pipeline will benefit Ohio. The line ends in Canada, but Nexus officials have said they have a contract with Columbia Gas to sell some of the natural gas here in Ohio. However, that contract has not been revealed to the public, he said.
“There’s a lot of collusion going on here, people,” Wohlfarth said.
Others evoked images of the pipeline protesters in North Dakota, who have been sprayed with water cannons and pepper spray in efforts to disperse them.
“This is not in our interest,” said Matthew Cunningham, representing a BGSU environmental action group. “I’ve yet to hear from a single person” in support of the Nexus pipeline, he said. “Please listen to the collective voices.”
Others spoke of Bowling Green’s efforts to support green energy, with its long commitment to wind turbines and now a huge solar field under construction.
“Why would we take two steps backward,” one person said.
Neocles Leontis agreed. “We’d like to see you do right by this,” he said.
Leontis explained that Ohio enjoys very low natural gas prices because of all the fracking in the region. Consequently, a pipeline company can make far more by exporting the natural gas to Canada or elsewhere.
Some speakers felt it was more important for Bowling Green to stand up for principles – even if the city can’t win against the pipeline. “Nexus will take notice,” if the city doesn’t just buckle under, Ross Martin said. “It is worth it to resist it. I think we need to hold true to our principles.”
Daniel Myers, of the BGSU environmental action group, agreed. “This is our chance to stand up for what is right as a community.”
To one woman, the issue hit closer to home. Janice Lower said she lives on West River Road, 400 feet from the proposed pipeline. She referred to the pipeline as “a devastating chapter” for the region, and spoke of other places that turned into “ghost towns” after pipelines were installed. “I will be leaving the area,” she said.
Once all the citizens had spoken, council asked some questions of City Attorney Mike Marsh.
Marsh reported that Nexus, which is not a public utility, does not yet have eminent domain power, but is about half way through the process to secure that authority. The city’s decision to work with Nexus on the pipeline pathway was in an effort to move the line to a better location on the city’s property, he said.
The city’s acreage is currently rented out for farming, and has two Toledo Edison electric easements already on it. The Nexus pipeline would be located adjacent to those easements. The area where the pipeline is buried will not be farmed for two years. After that, it will go back into crop production.
Nexus has agreed to pay the city $151,000 for the easement, but Marsh said the money did not play a role in the city working with the company on the pipeline route. “That wasn’t what this is about,” he said.
The city was thinking, “Well, it’s going to happen, so let’s put it in where it least affects the property,” he said.
Marsh also told City Council he wasn’t sure if Wood County Common Pleas Judge Robert Pollex’s decision against another pipeline company’s plans in the county will have any bearing on the Nexus project.
“What chance do we really stand at resisting,” Council member Bruce Jeffers asked.
If Nexus secures eminent domain powers, the city cannot stop its plans, Marsh said. “It’s the most powerful weapon someone can have,” he said about eminent domain.
Marsh added that he is not a fan of eminent domain. “In my 29 years here, we haven’t used it once.”