FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Medina, OH – Today, Sustainable Medina County (SMC), a Medina-based citizen opposition group to the NEXUS natural gas pipeline, filed a motion in the federal licensing case to halt right-of-way land purchases under the threat of eminent domain because they tilt the scales to NEXUS.
SMC, joined in the filing by the Neighbors Against NEXUS (NAN) and Freshwater Accountability Project (FWAP) groups in northwestern Ohio, cited warnings made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to landowners which advise quick negotiations years before the pipeline can legally sue. The groups claim that FERC and NEXUS deliberately create the impression that the pipeline build is unstoppable to pressure landowners to sell early. The grassroots groups request that FERC deny the NEXUS pipeline application and halt land acquisition for NEXUS because the effects of FERC’s eminent domain policies violate federal law and bias the coming vote by FERC on the application.
“NEXUS is desperately bullying property owners in Medina and other counties to force them to sell right-of-way easements. Landowners are being harangued by NEXUS representatives literally seven days a week, barraged with letters and phone calls and demands and the insistence that it is a done deal, this is our best price,” noted Kathie Jones, convenor of SMC. “And FERC is aiding it. From 2014 when FERC first published legal notice that they were processing the NEXUS application, FERC has warned landowners to cut a deal with NEXUS or else, because NEXUS will be handed eminent domain power to sue them in court if they don’t settle. FERC’s tone assures NEXUS investors that there may be minor haggling over the ultimate route selected, but that meanwhile NEXUS can go ahead and acquire land to build it.”
“Federal law bars NEXUS from taking any action to start the project before the permit is granted, including buying land to lock in the route,” said Terry Lodge, Toledo attorney for SMC. “But FERC lets the pipeline company threaten eminent domain to force sales of right-of-way rights two years or more before the permit is granted. So NEXUS gets the pipeline route they want, years before getting eminent domain power. Then, they argue to FERC that it would be a hardship to move it or to not build at all,” he added.
“For two years, landowners have complained that NEXUS agents are telling them the deal is done,” noted Liz Athaide-Victor of Neighbors Against NEXUS in Fulton County near Toledo. “The more surveys NEXUS gets done, the more landowners they count as ‘under negotiation’ to FERC, even if the landowner has opposed the surveys in court and denied them access. It’s all in the optics.”
“The higher the percentage of coerced ‘voluntary’ land sales, the less legal justification FERC’s regulations require from NEXUS to build it, “commented Leatra Harper, managing director of Freshwater Accountability Project in Wood County. “NEXUS is peddling a pointless gas export project that’s against the public interest and the more they jam it to landowners, the less so-called ‘regulation’ the public can expect from FERC.”
The motion will be decided in early 2017.