An appeals court ruling ordering the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to justify its Nexus pipeline decision was hailed Monday by Green residents who fought the 255-mile project.

In its decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, said FERC “failed to adequately justify its determination that it is lawful to credit Nexus' contracts with foreign shippers serving foreign customers as evidence of market demand for the interstate pipeline.”

The court ordered the agency to further explain the reasoning behind its approval.

Dave Mucklow, attorney for the Coalition to Reroute Nexus (CORN) and a Green resident, called the decision a significant victory.

“I think it’s a landmark decision — maybe one of the [more] important decisions to come out of this area in recent years,” he said. “It deals with the recognition of people’s property rights.”

Tammy Daly, who was part of CORN  — which failed to stop the natural gas pipeline but was able to negotiate route changes — said she wants to see what happens next.

“It will be interesting,” she said Monday. “We don’t know what will happen.”

The Nexus pipeline snakes a path through eastern Ohio, through Green on its way to an end near Detroit. Much of the gas that flows through the pipeline is exported to Canada.

Mucklow said the decision may reconfigure the process for pipeline approval in the future, with an emphasis on eminent domain procedures.

“The system of eminent domain is brutal on property owners,” he said. “It was really brutal on my clients.”

In the decision, the court determined that property owners who reach an agreement under duress don’t lose their right to sue: “Accordingly, the fact that the parties reached an agreement does nothing to vitiate Petitioners’ injuries to their property interests.”

That's an important point, Mucklow said.

“The court points out that just because you settled, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to appeal,” Mucklow said.

Green Councilman Steve Dyer said the decision shows that the city of Green moved too quickly to make a deal with the Nexus owners.

“I would encourage anybody who has gone through eminent domain with Nexus to stay tuned and keep up the fight,” he said. “I’m glad there might be some justice coming for folks who got railroaded on this deal.”

Mucklow, however, said it’s highly unlikely that the decision will lead to a pipeline shutdown.

“The court pretty much indicated that they are not going to revoke the certificate,” he said, suggesting that the primary benefit will come from an improved pipeline process designed to better protect the interests of property owners.

Dyer, however, holds out hope the certificate could be revoked.

“It is a long shot, but the fact that they’re winning even these partial victories is something we were told would never happen,” he said.

 

Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or emailed at aashworth@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconjournal.