CLEVELAND (AP) — The growing supply of natural gas being pulled from the Marcellus and Utica shale regions of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania has become a potential boon for businesses that build large interstate pipelines and a potential nightmare for people who don't want massive amounts of gas surging through their property.
Several underground pipeline projects are proposed to transport natural gas across the state from the Utica and Marcellus shale regions to northwest Ohio.
The project that has drawn the most opposition is the NEXUS pipeline, which is being proposed by a partnership of Houston-based Spectra Energy and Detroit-based DTE Energy. NEXUS is a 200-mile corridor of 42-inch-diamater pipe capable of transporting as much as 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day, an amount that would meet the needs of around 20,000 homes for a year. Gas from the pipeline would be made available to industry and to gas-fired power plants.
The other large proposed project is called ET Rover and consists of two similarly sized, side-by-said pipelines. Yet it's NEXUS that has drawn the most criticism because of its proximity to more densely populated areas including Stark, Summit, Medina and Lorain counties. The ET Rover pipeline would be built farther south and would mostly avoid populated areas.
Drilling for oil and especially natural gas has become a major driver of economic activity in southeast Ohio's traditionally poor Appalachian region. Production, however, has outstripped the ability to get that gas to market, a problem the pipelines would help solve.
While the drilling process called hydraulic fracturing — fracking — has turned some landowners into millionaires in the shale region, pipeline companies are not expected to make those who own land along their routes rich. Property owners instead are concerned their property values will be diminished, that they will lose the ability to use their land as they wish and are frightened by the possibility of ruptures and explosions.
Paul and Elizabeth Gierosky fulfilled part of their retirement dream when they moved to semi-rural York Township outside of Medina two years ago. But then Gierosky received a letter in August from NEXUS that said the couple's 34-acre retreat lay in the path of its proposed pipeline route.
The letter incensed the couple. Paul Gierosky said recently that he has refused to allow surveyors on his property and that he intends to fight NEXUS as long as he can. But if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves the project, Gierosky and others won't have a choice.
Companies building interstate pipelines have the legal right to acquire the land they need through eminent domain proceedings. Gierosky has banded together with hundreds of other property owners in the proposed path of NEXUS and intend to force the company into court to buy their land.
"They'll ram this thing down American citizens' throats," Gierosky said. "And they're wrong."
NEXUS officials hope to begin and complete building the $2 billion project in 2017. Gierosky said he recognizes the need to get natural gas to market but wants NEXUS routed away from more populated areas. He and others have suggested that a safety corridor be developed to locate pipeline projects headed in the same direction.
NEXUS spokesman Arthur Diestel said a number of regulatory steps must be completed before the route is decided. He said that based on feedback from property owners and elected officials, an alternative route to the south will be considered. A number of government entities, including Summit County Council, have passed resolutions in opposition to the existing route.
Around 2.5 million miles of pipeline crisscross the country carrying hazardous liquids and natural gas. Government data show that accidents, especially those that result in death or injury, are relatively rare.
But when an accident does occur, such as the 2010 explosion of a 30-inch natural gas pipeline in San Bruno, California, the effects are devastating. Eight people were killed, 66 people injured and 38 homes destroyed when a pipeline running through a residential neighborhood exploded, leaving behind a 167-foot crater.