Proposed pipeline still up in the air


SALEM — Landowners across Ohio and Pennsylvania continue to voice objections to the construction of a 370-mile natural gas pipeline that could cross northern Ohio and northcentral Pennsylvania.

The proposed $678 million natural gas pipeline stretches from existing pipelines in Defiance in western Ohio, to Leidy in northcentral Pennsylvania (Clinton County). The project creates a link to existing lines at Leidy in order to move natural gas into the eastern United States.

An Ohio House resolution opposing the construction of the Independence Pipeline received a second hearing Feb. 19. The bill, H.R. 197, urges the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reject the pipeline application.

Landowners who support the measure testified before the Ohio House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Environment. Pipeline representatives presented opposing testimony.

“We all went down there with our own stories,” said Columbiana County’s John Garwood of High Hope Farm near Leetonia.

The Garwood family has four pipelines from the Tennessee Gas Company crossing its farms. Garwood presented testimony related to reduced yields and profit potential on fields that contain the pipelines.

Even though the lines were installed in the early 1950s and during the 1960s, Garwood said his family continues to see variations in moisture retention and crop development on land that covers the line.

“It’s more noticeable with sweet corn because the ears won’t be as long and when it’s growing, it will be one to two days behind the rest of the field,” Garwood said. “You notice the difference more with the specialty crops, because who wants an ear of sweet corn that is six inches long instead of 10 inches.”

Phil Bresler of Bloomdale in Wood County cited a personal experience in which a pipeline recently exploded near his house. A pipeline company sent him a settlement check without meeting with him to determine the amount of damage.

“A farmer has no power or recourse concerning his own property,” Bresler testified. “We pay for and maintain the property, plus pay taxes on it. They (gas companies) use it scot free while making big money on it every minute of the day.”

State Reps. Johnnie Maier, D-Stark County, and Sean Logan, D-Columbiana County, offered testimony during the first hearing on Jan. 8.

Maier sponsored the legislation and Logan, ranking minority member of the committee, is the primary co-sponsor.

An aide to Rep. William Schuck, R-Columbus, who chairs the committee, said the committee’s next meeting is the week of March 12, but was unsure at presstime if H.R. 197 would be on the agenda.

The gas companies proposing the Independence Pipeline include American Natural Resources (ANR), Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Corp. and National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation. Each holds a one-third interest in the pipeline partnership.

Although FERC’s deadline for comments was Feb. 23, spokesman Tamara Young-Allen said comments, both pro and con, will still be considered. They can be sent to the: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First St., NE, Washington D.C. 20426.

FERC staff will now review the comments the agency has received and begin to prepare an environmental document. Another open comment period will be held when the staff issues a Notice of Intent to Prepare a Environmental Impact Statement, which is expected by early summer.

In its original application, Independence asked for FERC to rule by July 1, 1998. If approved, construction would begin in the spring of 1999.

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