COLUMBUS, Ohio – Dozens of Ohioans, including farmers, are teaming up to fight pipeline projects that could run through their property. Almost 40,000 miles of new pipelines are being proposed around the state to transport oil and gas. Sheryl Billman is working to get organic certification for her Lorain County farm, which is in the proposed path of the Nexus pipeline.
“It’s just a whole devastating idea, a 42-inch diameter pipeline,” says Billman. “It would only be anywhere from two-to-six feet below ground. You couldn’t put trees in, you could not use the land, really.”
Besides the impact on agriculture, Billman says the local public benefit of the development is questionable since the pipeline would transport natural gas from shale gas supplies produced in eastern Ohio up to Canada. Groups are forming to try to get the pipeline it rerouted to areas where existing pipelines already are in place. The Nexus pipeline is in early planning, and its developer has said it is possible it could be moved or its path could be shifted.
It’s not just the pipeline that Billman says is a nuisance, but also its construction, maintenance and accompanying compressor stations. She says the possibility of accidents, spills or explosions poses a real risk to organic farmers whose land could be compromised by chemicals or toxins.
“The people who are close to these things, their air quality, water quality and soil is just being devastated,” says Billman. “That’s food and it comes up in the food and it just draws right from the soil and from the air.”
Supporters say the pipelines will help drillers get a better price for their gas by carrying it to areas north where there is greater demand. While Billman says she understands the need for natural gas for energy, she says there are other ways.
“We know how to do things differently and there are the alternative fuels coming along, solar and wind, primarily, and we are taking our farm in that direction,” she says. “We will be petroleum free on our farm by 2020.”
Other proposed projects in Ohio include ANR East Pipeline, a 500-mile line to Michigan, and the 800-mile Rover Pipeline, which would run to Canada.