AKRON, Ohio — Nexus Gas Transmission, the company trying to build a gas pipeline across Ohio, filed a lawsuit Thursday against 91 Summit County landowners asking for access to complete surveys for the pipeline.
Nexus is asking the court to force for a temporary restraining order against land owners who have refused to let pipeline surveyors access their property.
The company is trying to build a 250-mile-long pipeline to connect shale gas fields in western Pennsylvania and Northeast Ohio to processors in Michigan, then on to the largest field of natural gas storage wells in Canada.
A group of Ohio politicians and homeowners, called the Coalition to Reroute Nexus, have opposed the construction of the pipeline, which would run from shale fields in western Pennsylvania and Northeast Ohio to storage facilities in Canada.
The company decided against the coalition’s proposal to relocate the pipeline further south, into less populated areas, and has proceeded to survey land along the original route.
Starting last year, private property owners in Medina, Lorain, Wayne and Summit counties have denied surveyors from the pipeline access to their property.
One of them was Paul Gierosky, the executive director of the Coalition to Reroute Nexus.
“They don’t want to play ball with us, they don’t want to take our very well engineered and thought-out reroute proposal,” Gierosky said. “So what’s our option? Our option is to delay them, so what we’ve done is we’ve denied access for them to survey our property.”
The surveyors haven’t given up, though, and have returned repeatedly to many of the properties where homeowners have denied access, sometimes with hired off-duty police officers at their side.
After pipeline surveyors starting showing up at doors in Green with off-duty police officers, Green Mayor David Norton wrote a letter telling residents that the city had not and would not send its police officers with pipeline surveyors.
The Summit County lawsuit claims that property owners have irreparably damaged the pipeline company by denying them access.
Surveys are needed to complete the federal permitting process to build the pipeline. The company has set a November 2017 deadline. Without the pipeline, the company says it is at risk of defaulting on gas delivery contracts it has already signed.
The lawsuit is similar to others filed in Medina and Lorain counties. A Medina County judge last month denied Nexus a restraining order to complete the survey.
The company has since filed a request for a permanent injunction and added 94 other property owners as defendants in the case.
“How am I damaging them,” Gierosky said. “I didn’t set their deadline. I didn’t choose to have a pipeline built through my backyard.”
In the response to the court, Defense Attorney David Mucklow argues, among other points, that Nexus does not have the authority to use eminent domain law without certification from the federal government, and that it has “contrived” the harm done to itself, and hasn’t presented any contracts to justify its argument.
Nexus Gas Transmission representatives could not be reached Friday morning.