The battle may have been lost, but Sustainable Medina County, a grassroots organization that bitterly fought construction of the Nexus Pipeline, is continuing the war.

Last week, Sustainable Medina and its ally Earthworks, a Washington, D.C., environmental nonprofit, released a video showing emissions at the pipeline’s Wadsworth Compressor Station.

The camera used by Earthworks to record the venting, said Sustainable Medina, can record such emissions as benzene, toluene, xylene and methane. Sustainable Medina did not give a breakdown of gases in the blowdown.

According to the Medina County organization, the releases shown in the video — conducted about 260 times per year — are permissible under Ohio law.

But Sustainable Medina isn’t persuaded that legal is the same as safe and healthy.

“Even though operators have permits to pollute, those pollution levels may still harm health and they definitely harm the climate,” said Sustainable Medina member Mary Emhoff, a Brunswick Hills resident.

The 256-mile, $2.1 billion pipeline, owned by a partnership between companies in Canada and Detroit, began operating in mid-November.

Adam Parker, a spokesman for Enbridge, a Calgary-based company that shares ownership of the pipeline, said in an email that Sustainable Medina’s news release is misleading.

“The group’s news release attempts to sensationalize the operation of the station, all while acknowledging that the facility holds a permit from the Ohio EPA which went through an extensive regulatory review and public comment period nearly three years ago,” Parker said.

Parker said the emissions at the Wadsworth station are comparable to those released by dry cleaners, gas stations and small paint shops. Enbridge, he said, has taken steps to reduce pollution beyond what’s required by law.

“… [W]hile this is not required by any federal regulations,” Parker said, “we have equipped the turbines with oxidation catalysts, which are designed to significantly reduce carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and hazardous air pollutants emissions.”

But Kathie Jones, a co-founder of Sustainable Medina, isn’t convinced and hasn’t been from the start.

“Our long-term goal is to show how it’s harming people,” Jones said in a phone interview Friday. “We would like to have it shut down altogether.”

Despite the additional pollution control equipment added by Enbridge, Jones said the emissions are harmful and the company isn’t doing enough.

“They could put more safeguards at the compressor station,” Jones said.

James Lee, media relations manager with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said in an emailed response that emissions from the Wadsworth Compressor Station are carefully controlled and regulated.

“The regulations applicable to this natural gas compressor station do not require zero air pollution,” Lee said. “The majority of emissions from gas release events are associated with routine planned operations such as startup and shutdown, reduced pressure demand events or maintenance activities.”

Lee said that the Guilford Road station was inspected by Akron Regional Air Quality Management District staff on March 15 and tests indicated that the facility was in compliance. He said staff will discuss the Earthworks video with the station’s operator.

The camera used by Earthworks can be useful to detect leaks that are invisible to the naked eye, but they're limited in the information they can provide, he said.

“[T]hese cameras generally do not provide a definitive indication of the types of gases or amounts that are being emitted,” Lee said.

Jones said that Sustainable Medina is working with a Pennsylvania organization to monitor the station and collect data on the gases in the emissions, especially during blowdowns. Once the analysis is complete, her organization intends to hold a public meeting in the summer.

“Communities have the right to protect their air, their water, their environment — it’s called ‘community rights,’ ” Jones said. “We, in Medina County, have the right to clean air and water and no corporation has the right to come into our community to poison us.”

 

Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or aashworth@thebeaconjournal.com.