City votes to accept $7.5M settlement in gas pipeline fight
CLEVELAND (AP) — A divided City Council in northeast Ohio on Wednesday voted to accept $7.5 million to settle lawsuits and clear the way for construction of a high-pressure natural gas line through the city.
It’s a bargain no one in Green in southern Summit County seems happy about. This solidly middle-class community of 26,000 has spent the last three-plus years fighting the partnership that’s building the $2 billion pipeline to carry gas from Appalachian shale fields across northern Ohio into Michigan and Canada.
The council voted 4-3 to accept the settlement with NEXUS Gas Transmission, which includes 20 acres the city will use for a trail to connect residential streets to a city park.
Councilman Matt Shaughnessy said he opposed the settlement even though there’s no guarantee Green would win in court.
“I support the fight,” Shaughnessy said. “I do not support the surrender.”
Residents who spoke before the vote appeared mostly united in their opposition to a settlement. Some discussed their fears of living within 1,500-foot of the pipeline’s blast zone should a catastrophic failure occur.
Retired school teacher Margaret Amonett said she’s lived in Green since 1957. She said she tried to sell her property but found no takers because of its proximity to the pipeline route.
“This is not a good deal for Green,” she said. “I live in the kill zone. I don’t want to die. I’d like to enjoy my retirement.”
Justin Leonti said the settlement amount isn’t enough, that the NEXUS partnership between Canadian energy firm Enbridge and Detroit’s DTE Energy would make billions transporting gas.
“We’re worried about crumbs, while NEXUS takes the whole cake,” Leonti said.
Green is the most densely developed community in the pipeline’s 255-mile-long (410-kilometer) path. Early on, city engineers devised an alternative route that would have moved the pipeline to mostly farmland to the south that NEXUS and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected.
One of the city’s pending lawsuits contested the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s issuance of a clean water certificate for the $2 billion project. Another was over a NEXUS effort to acquire 2.5 acres from Green through eminent domain proceedings. Before the settlement NEXUS offered $146,000 for the property.
The settlement is a bitter pill for Green Mayor Gerard Neugebauer. He’s been out in front of the fight against NEXUS from the start, pushing lawsuits that have cost the city around $200,000 in legal fees.
Neugebauer said Thursday that even if Green were to prevail in its federal lawsuit against NEXUS and the Ohio EPA, it wouldn’t stop the pipeline from being built.
“We did all we could,” he said.
While Neugebauer has railed against the potential environmental damage and lost economic opportunities the pipeline could cause, his concerns have been mixed with worries about what would happen should the pipeline ever explode.
“It will be in the back of my mind every day I’m mayor,” he said. “And every day beyond.”