Ohio Residents Sue to Block Planned Gas Pipeline

(CN) – Dozens of Ohio homeowners sued the federal government to stop the use of their properties to make way for a proposed natural-gas pipeline, claiming the project will endanger the lives of area residents.

The property owners filed a federal lawsuit against Nexus Gas Transmission LLC and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Cleveland on Friday, seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop their properties from being used via the eminent domain process.

Laura Urban and 42 others comprise the first group of plaintiffs, who say they are “targeted for eminent domain.”

Paul and Elizabeth Gierosky and 19 others landowners form the second plaintiff group, who claim to be “within (the) blast zone or impact radius.”

FERC Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur and Commissioner Colette D. Honorable are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

In late 2015, Nexus applied for a certificate to construct a 256-mile natural gas pipeline. Most of the new structure would be located in Ohio, with the other 46 miles in Michigan. The pipeline would connect to the Dawn Hub underground gas storage facility in Ontario, Canada.

A final environmental impact statement for the project was published late last year. The plaintiffs seek to overturn or vacate it.

“Because the NGT project is primarily an export pipeline, an issuance of a certificate by FERC would violate the Taking Clause of the Fifth Amendment,” the complaint states. Nexus is partly owned by Canada-based Enbridge, the lead developing partner on the project.

The landowners also claim the project would violate their due-process rights in three ways.

“The project strips plaintiffs of their protected interests given to them by the land use restrictions in effect where they live,” they allege. “The project places plaintiffs in jeopardy of physical injury with no consideration of plaintiffs’ safety concerns due to a lack of safety setbacks; and forces plaintiffs to give up certain property rights to a foreign entity for that entity’s financial gain.”

In addition, the homeowners accuse FERC of providing misleading or false information, including a lack of notification of their right to appeal the pipeline’s location.

They also allege the project’s “potential impact radius or ‘blast zones’ are not authorized by the zoning laws of three local communities along the pipeline’s path.”

“FERC is imposing a dangerous industrial process, endangering the lives of citizens who have relied to their detriment upon these codes to acquire homes in safe residential areas or under safe conditions,” the lawsuit states.

Regarding safety, the plaintiffs claim that more than 4,000 pipeline-related incidents have taken place in the U.S. since 2010, resulting in 100 deaths, 470 injuries and $3.4 billion in property damage.

“FERC has established no safety setbacks, allowing residential structures within one foot of the pipeline or to the edge of the permanent easement,” they say.

They added that the environmental impact statement uses the phrases “no long term effect,” “no significant effect” and “any significant impact” a total of 34 times without evidentiary support.

According to the plaintiffs, a Cleveland State University study “concludes that the Nexus pipeline will cause damages due to a loss of tax revenues to local governments in the amount of $122.8 million.”

The lawsuit also says that the pipeline would be located close to two dams and a glacial bog that is home to three endangered species of dragonflies.

The homeowners claim that if the government approves the pipelines, “trees will be cut, surface features removed, and heavy machinery will traverse plaintiffs’ property, and the uses will be altered, causing additional damage.”

Ohio attorneys David Mucklow, Aaron Ridenbaugh and Kevin Breen are representing the plaintiffs.

FERC spokeswoman Mary O’Driscoll said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

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