A federal agency has directed the company behind the proposed Nexus natural gas pipeline to investigate an alternative route that would relocate the $2 billion project to less populated areas in the region.
The city of Green has proposed moving about 103 miles of the pipeline — some 40 miles of it slated for southern Summit County and northern Stark County. Instead, the path would cross southern Stark and Wayne counties, then western Wayne, Medina and Lorain counties, avoiding more heavily populated areas.
Green Mayor Richard G. Norton said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the latest development. Concerned residents have filled several meetings regarding the project, voicing concerns that the original route would pass too close to residential areasl.
Texas-based Nexus Gas Transmission LLC will consider Green’s proposal, company spokesman Arthur Diestel said.
The company has been looking at a possible southern alternative route of its own, although no details have been released.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which approves such pipeline projects, filed its directive to the company in a memo Tuesday — a day after Green pitched the alternative route in a 38-page filing with the agency.
When FERC will make its decision about what route it will approve has not been determined.
The Nexus pipeline — intended to move natural gas from the Utica Shale region to market — is generating a “large volume of public comments,” FERC said in its memo.
Green officials called the current 93.4-mile pipeline route through the Akron-Canton area “hastily drawn and ill-conceived with no respect to the human and environmental concerns.” Norton and Planning Director Wayne Wiethe signed the city’s filing.
The re-route, they wrote, shows that the pipeline can be relocated with “significantly less environmental and social impacts.”
With the new route, the number of homes close to the pipeline would drop from 4,517 to 1,393. The move would affect 26 acres of wetlands, instead of 67 acres, according to the filing.
Green developed the new route with a grass-roots group, the Coalition to Reroute Nexus (CORN).
The city suggested that the Nexus pipeline be routed next to existing pipelines and also follow a lengthy stretch of the proposed Rover pipeline that is being built by another company, creating a major utility corridor in Stark and Wayne counties.
Such corridors have been built elsewhere, Norton and Wiethe said.
“We are not just trying to push this into another community’s backyard,” they wrote.
Green officials are scheduled to meet with company officials Tuesday to discuss the alternative route, which would add almost 10 miles to the overall length of the pipeline.
Green’s suggestion has received a cool reception in Stark County.
Two commissioners — Janet Weir Creighton and Richard Regula — have said they do not support the plan. Commissioner Tom Bernabei said he has not reached a decision.
Some residents have said they are against two big pipelines being routed through southern Stark County.
The Nexus rerouting would reduce the number of residences within 1,500 feet of the pipeline by 70 percent, says CORN, which includes 20 communities from across northern Ohio as members.
“Our belief is that a more southerly route will affect far fewer residents, businesses, schools, churches, important wetland and environmentally sensitive areas,” the coalition wrote to FERC.
The reroute would avoid more heavily populated areas in Stark, Summit, Medina and Lorain counties and still would enable the pipeline company to hook into the Dominion East Ohio network at a point west of Cleveland, CORN said.
Rerouting could produce savings for the company, CORN said, due to lower construction costs in less-populated areas reducing easement costs and fewer cases of eminent domain.
In a related matter, Nexus Gas Transmission told the federal agency in a filing last week that the pipeline will be smaller than initially planned — 36 inches in diameter rather than 42.
The pipeline is designed to run roughly 250 miles from Columbiana County in eastern Ohio to Defiance in northwest Ohio, then head north into Michigan and connect with other existing pipelines to carry gas into Canada.