An $8.5 million project to replace a half-mile of the Nexus pipeline is fueling criticism even before an excavator breaks ground at the Green site.
Enbridge, the company that owns and operates the natural gas line, notified Green officials last week it would replace pipeline in the section less than a year after the gas began flowing. The project is expected to begin by Oct. 1.
The pipeline was completed last year despite ardent opposition from opponents in Green and other areas along its 255-mile route. A Medina County-based group, for instance, claimed in April that emissions at the Nexus Wadsworth Compressor Station were harmful to public health.
Enbridge and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials denied the allegations and said the station was operating according to acceptable standards. Sustainable Medina County said, however, that it would continue to monitor the station.
Green Councilman Steve Dyer, a vocal opponent of the pipeline and a critic of the city’s $7 million settlement with Enbridge, said recent events have stoked his fears after hearing of the company's plans in Green.
“I’m extremely concerned, especially coming so close to an Enbridge-operated pipeline exploding so recently in Kentucky,” Dyer said. “They just started running gas in [Nexus] in October.”
Dyer said he wants to know if there's a correlation between the Green project and the Danville, Kentucky, pipeline explosion on Aug. 1 that killed one person and injured six others.
Adam Parker, senior government affairs adviser for Enbridge, said in a phone interview and emails on Thursday that there is no link.
“Planning for this upgrade was well underway before the incident in Kentucky and there is no connection,” Parker said. “This work was voluntarily undertaken to upgrade the pipe in order to satisfy regulatory requirements to enable Nexus to meet peak natural gas demand.”
Parker said the half-mile section was constructed with incomplete information. When the data was calculated again, an internal review concluded the area was more densely populated than originally calculated and required a thicker pipe.
“A routine Quality Assurance review determined that a segment of pipe requires an upgrade with heavier wall pipe (from roughly one-half inch to three-quarters of an inch steel) in order to allow us to operate the system in accordance with regulatory requirements to meet permitted peak natural gas demand,” Parker said.
Three property owners are affected by the company’s plans, and Enridge is working with all three, he said.
Attempts to contact two of the property owners for comment, including a visit to their homes, were unsuccessful.
But one resident with property near the site said she is “disgusted” by the replacement project.
Diane Petralla, who owns land about 500 feet from the Koons Road work site, said neighbors who put a house up for sale last year took the home off the market due to lack of interest from buyers. She said a pipeline disaster is always in the back of her mind.
“Every time I hear fireworks I jump up,” said Petralla. “In the future I’m going to get the hell out of Green.”
Like Dyer, Petralla criticizes the city for settlement funds it used for inspectors while the pipeline was being built.
“The city spent 100 grand on inspectors and never caught [the problem],” she said.
The Nexus route through Green on its way to Michigan never made sense to her. "Why come through a damn city? Why are you coming through a city?"
Tammy Daly, a member of the Coalition To Reroute Nexus, agreed that the replacement project should have been unnecessary.
“Even with additional oversight that our administration promised when it cut the deal to allow Nexus into our community, it appears the pipe still went into the ground improperly,” she said in an email.
But Parker and Green Communications Manager Valerie Wolford both stress that there was no “problem” and no violations.
At the level Nexus was operating, the soon-to-be-replaced pipeline was within regulatory standards. It’s only because Enbridge foresees Nexus operating at the full, FERC-certified capacity that a change is being made.
“They put a perfectly good section of pipe in the ground,” Wolford said. “They are well within regulatory limits.”
Tamara Young-Allen, public affairs specialist with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said Enbridge has been aboveboard in its communications with the agency.
“Under their blanket certificate’s ‘automatic authorization,’ NEXUS may begin the work and report to FERC afterwards because the project would fall under the maximum cost limit of $12.3 million,” Young-Allen said in an email. She said FERC regulators don't know why Class 2 pipe was placed instead of Class 3.
"We aren't quite sure why they did that," she said in a follow-up phone call Thursday.
John Vallilo, who was appointed to a citizens’ board to advise the city on how best to spend its $7.5 million settlement, said he doesn’t expect the replacement project to have an effect on the panel’s recommendations.
The group will meet three times, with the first meeting scheduled for Sept. 4.
"It’s going to be something separate from our charge as a committee," he said. "That should not affect what our committee is doing."
Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconjourna.