WASHINGTON – Area landowners’ five-year uphill battle against a proposed natural gas transmission pipeline that would have dissected Ohio and western Pennsylvania is over.
The Independence Pipeline Company submitted a motion to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission June 24 requesting the commission vacate the certificate issued to Independence to construct, own and operate a new 400-mile pipeline across northcentral Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania. The move basically means the company is abandoning its plans for the pipeline.
The proposed pipeline would have extended from ANR Pipeline Company’s existing compressor station in Defiance, Ohio, to National Fuel Gas facilities in Leidy, Pa.
Some of the same landowners fought a similar proposal called the Erie-Transylvania natural gas transmission pipeline in the mid-1980s. That project died in 1986, only to resurface 11 years later in 1997 under the Independence Pipeline name.
Great news. “We think it’s great news,” said Keith Beachem of Portersville, Pa., who helped lead the opposition fight in western Pennsylvania. “I’m just sorry it took so long.”
Beachem admits the landowners’ opposition did not stop the project, but it did delay the pipeline proposal long enough for industry changes and deregulation changes to play a hand in the final outcome.
“We doggedly kept after FERC,” Beachem said. “Thank heavens, maybe, that we have large bureaucracies.”
No buyers. Independence officials said the company had been unable to get sufficient customer contracts to proceed with the project.
The commission had granted a certificate, or permission for the pipeline to proceed with construction July 12, 2000, however the companies involved had to secure contracts for 35 percent of the pipeline’s total capacity with “non-affiliate shippers” that had no form of “out” clauses.
Pipeline of dreams? Gordon R. Bury, president of the Ohio-Pennsylvania Landowners Association, had two words to summarize his feelings: relieved and mad.
“I’m relieved that it’s over,” Bury said, “but I’m mad that it took them six years to realize what we’ve been saying all along. They’ve put the landowner through six years of hell.”
“We ‘told you so’ six years ago,” Bury said of the landowners’ questioning the need for such a pipeline in the first place. “We said all along that if you don’t have contracts, why should you build a pipeline?
“They worked under the Field of Dreams idea that ‘if you build it, they [gas buyers] will come.’ That’s called speculation and speculation is not a reason to invoke eminent domain.”
Bury said the landowners’ association will continue to work through the National Pipeline Reform Coalition to work for improved pipeline safety policies and updated eminent domain laws.
“From the beginning of this fight this time around, we said even if we won, we would continue to work to bring laws up to date,” Bury said.
Existing regulations governing pipelines are rooted in the 1920s and ’30s, Bury said, and codes and policies are not up to date with advances in technology.
Bud Carper of Louisville, Ohio, was one of the first Stark County landowners to catch wind of the pipeline project in April 1997. Carper, who already has a 16-inch pipeline and electric high tension wire towers creating a big X across his farm, said he was glad the line wasn’t going through.
“It’s done and we’ll live without it,” Carper said. “I won’t have to fight them to get something done.”
The news of the pipeline abandonment doesn’t totally ease landowners’ minds, however. Keith Beachem says there is a real possibility the proposal could rear its head a third time.
“This route has been surveyed and I’m sure somebody will keep those surveys,” he said.
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