Another Pipeline Project Sparks Protests in US Heartland

PHOTO: Signs are posted on Jon Strongs property where a planned natural gas pipeline is scheduled to be built soon, Dec. 5, 2016, in Guilford Township near Wadsworth, Ohio. Tony Dejak/AP Photo
Signs are posted on Jon Strong's property where a planned natural gas pipeline is scheduled to be built soon, Dec. 5, 2016, in Guilford Township near Wadsworth, Ohio.

Medina County, Ohio, is more than a thousand miles from Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, where Native Americans, environmental activists and their allies have been protesting the Dakota Access pipeline project.

But officials and residents of Medina and neighboring Summit counties in northeast Ohio are also taking a stand against the planned route of a new pipeline that they say would pose a safety risk to their communities.

The 255-mile NEXUS pipeline would carry natural gas from Appalachia across northern Ohio and into Michigan and Canada. A NEXUS spokesman told ABC News that the pipeline has already been rerouted numerous times to accommodate landowners and that it is safe and will bring substantial economic benefits to the area.

But some in the area say the pipeline would run too close to homes, schools and businesses in heavily populated areas.

“We’re not against pipelines; we’re not against fossil fuels,” Medina County landowner Jon Strong said in a Dec. 1 interview with WAKR radio station in Akron, Ohio. “But we can be considerate where we run the route.”

“Go south, avoid the heavily populated areas and communities of Summit and Medina County and respect human life,” he continued.

Protesters against the pipeline route in Ohio are urging residents to sign petitions and attend demonstrations such as a protest organized by Sustainable Medina County over the weekend in the city of Medina.

"Residents of Medina are seriously concerned and want to stop this pipeline from being built because the pipeline, as well as the compressor station, will contaminate our water, our air and our soil," Sustainable Medina County spokeswoman Kathie Jones told ABC News in a statement. "This is not acceptable to the residents of Medina County and never will be, and we will continue to fight the construction of this pipeline."

Jones said supporters of Sustainable Medina County are refusing to allow surveyors onto their properties or to enter into easement agreements with NEXUS.

The NEXUS Gas Transmission project is a partnership between Houston-based Spectra Energy and Detroit’s DTE Energy, with construction expected to begin early next year.

NEXUS spokesman Adam Parker said the company has spent more than two years developing a "balanced plan" for the pipeline route, with construction techniques and measures to avoid, minimize or mitigate any impact on residents and businesses. The route plans have changed hundreds of times, according to Parker.

"NEXUS has been evaluating proposed routes, design and construction methods and potential impacts on community members and the environment since August 2014," Parker said in a statement to ABC News. "During project planning, NEXUS incorporated many route alternatives and variations into its original route. In total, NEXUS adopted 239 route changes totaling about 231 miles (91 percent of the pipeline route) for various reasons, including landowner requests, avoidance of sensitive resources, or engineering considerations."

Parker added that the pipeline will generate estimated cumulative tax revenue of $412 million in its first five years of operation. About $125 million of that revenue will go directly to local school districts in Ohio and Michigan, he said.

But officials in the city of Green in southern Summit County said the proposed pipeline route is "unacceptable" because it would be near neighborhoods, schools and city parks.

"The City of Green will not be signing any easements until required by law and the City has not authorized surveying of city-owned property," Green spokeswoman Valerie Wolford told ABC News in a statement.

Wolford told The Associated Press that residents are worried about the danger of a natural gas explosion.

“It’s something we have to think about,” Wolford said. "You have to prepare for the worst."

Construction of the pipeline is expected to begin once NEXUS clears its last regulatory hurdle of receiving a certificate of public convenience and necessity, expected in the first quarter of 2017. The company must also conduct surveys along the proposed route and pay property owners to bury the line on their land.

Parker, the NEXUS spokesman, told ABC News that surveys have been completed for about 95 percent of the project area. "NEXUS will continue to work with landowners, as we have over the past 2 years, to resolve any outstanding matters," he said.

Strong, an organizer of the Coalition to Reroute NEXUS, said he won’t let surveyors onto his property and won’t sell NEXUS an easement without a fight.

“I will stand my ground, as everyone else is standing, until all of our resources and options are exhausted,” he said.

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.