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Supervisor, residents attend Rover pipeline open house

With the help of an Energy Transfer Partners representative, Addison Township Supervisor Bruce Pearson (right) locates where the proposed Rover natural gas pipeline is tentatively planned to cross his 20-acre property on Noble Road. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
July 23, 2014 - Bruce Pearson wore two hats while attending the July 15 open house at Richmond High School for the proposed Rover Pipeline, the tentative route for which runs through Oxford and Addison townships.

He was there as the elected supervisor for Addison Township and as a concerned property owner who, under the current proposed route, will most likely see this new natural gas pipeline cross his property on Noble Rd.

"It's coming through my land and I'm okay with it," Pearson said. "Mine is a hay field anyhow."

The Canada-based Enbridge already has a 60-foot-wide permanent easement (or right-of-way) running through his 20-acre property for its Line 6B, a 285-mile crude oil pipeline that runs from Griffith, Indiana to Sarnia, Ontario.

If he strikes a deal with the ET Rover Pipeline Company – a subsidiary that's proposing to build the natural gas pipeline for its parent company, the Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) – the amount of his property occupied by permanent easement will double.

"They're willing to buy a whole, brand new 60-foot easement," Pearson said. "I would have a permanent 120-foot easement altogether."

His interests as a property owner aside, Pearson felt the open house gave him some information to disseminate to his constituents.

"I got a lot out of it," he said. "I got a quick education and at least now, I know what I'm talking about."

To Pearson, the good news for local landowners is "I think (ET Rover/ETP) is willing to listen."

"If people don't want it on their smaller, residential parcels, they're willing to move it to bigger pieces of property that people won't object to," he explained. "(The route is) not etched in stone. I can see where there's room for negotiation."

ET Rover Pipeline/ETP held two other open houses last week besides the one in Richmond. They took place in Fenton and Chelsea.

"We have certainly heard people on both sides (for and against the pipeline)," said ETP Spokesperson Vicki Granado. "I would say (that) definitely more than 50 percent, more than 75 percent of people, have responded positively . . . It's definitely more on the positive (side) than the negative, but we certainly have people that still have some questions."

At the open houses, folks went from station to station, picking up literature and talking with ETP representatives who had paper maps showing the proposed pipeline route and digital versions on computer tablets that allowed folks to zoom in on their parcels. Property owners were able to see where the pipeline is or is not proposed to cross their land.

"For us, the goal is to talk to every person that comes through the door and answer their specific questions," Granado said. "We hope that nobody leaves with questions that they haven't asked us or that we haven't found an answer to."

Pipeline details

The proposed Rover project calls for nearly 600 miles of pipeline that would transport natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to various markets in the United States and, potentially, Canada.

The pipeline's proposed route appears to pretty much run parallel to the Enbridge pipeline through Oxford and Addison townships.

"Once they get to Dequindre (Rd.), it shows that they're going to veer north," Pearson said. "They're cutting a whole new path north towards Port Huron. It won't follow the Enbridge line much past once they enter into Macomb County."

The exact length of the pipeline, which is expected to transport between 2.2 billion and 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, has not yet been determined.

According to literature provided at the open house by ET Rover Pipeline, it will consist of approximately 380 miles of 36-inch and 42-inch diameter mainline pipe and approximately 197 miles of 24, 36 and 42-inch diameter supply laterals.

According to literature provided at the open house by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the independent government agency that must approve the project in order for it to move forward, the project will consist of approximately 562 miles of new pipeline ranging in diameter from 24-to-42 inches in diameter.

In addition to pipeline, the proposed Rover project also includes five new mainline compressor stations and six new meter stations along the mainline pipeline.

Compressor stations ensure the natural gas flows through the pipeline at a consistent rate, while metering stations measure the amount of gas coming through.

ET Rover plans to file an application with FERC in January 2015 and begin construction of the pipeline in January 2016.

Pearson said he asked a FERC representative at the open house how accurate that time-line is. He was told, "I can tell you what the pipeline's time-line is, but that's not (FERC's) time-line."

Pearson has residents who are for and against the pipeline. The ones in favor of it are looking for some extra income.

"They're happy as can be because they know they're going to get another check," Pearson said. "They think it's a windfall."

Property owners like Pearson already received a check from Enbridge for the additional easements it needed for the replacement of Line 6B through this area, a project that began in May. Enbridge plans to have the new pipeline finished by the end of August and tied in by the end of September.

"When Enbridge came through here, not everybody was happy until the checkbooks opened up," Pearson noted. "Then all of a sudden about 80 percent of the people, you never heard from them again."

Landowners will be paid for any right-of-way ET Rover uses on their property.

ET Rover's literature indicates the company uses "qualified local real estate appraisers" to assess property values and "how those values will be affected by pipeline construction."

"We will base our offers of compensation (to landowners) upon those professional appraisals," the literature stated. "Our goal is to reach an agreement with property owners through negotiations to sign an easement voluntarily at a fair price."

What's the usual easement width?

"A pipeline normally requires a permanent 50-foot right-of-way," according to ET Rover's literature. "During construction, we'll need an additional 50-foot work space next to the permanent right-of-way. We may also need additional temporary work space in certain areas, such as road, railroad or stream crossings, to accommodate particular construction activities."

Concerned landowners

Not everybody's pleased about the prospect of another pipeline.

The Rover Pipeline's proposed route would require an easement across Addison resident Walter Pickwick's 10.6 acres on Rochester Rd. He's lived there for about 18 years with his wife, Evelyn.

"We're not really interested at this time," he said. Pickwick already has a 60-foot Enbridge easement running across his land.

"I probably could get along much better without another pipeline," he said.

Pickwick has concerns about the proposed Rover Pipeline. "My concerns are where it's going to run and how wide is the easement going to be," he said.

If ET Rover takes "too much of an easement," Pickwick fears "it might mean I'm going to lose more use of my property."

For example, permanent structures cannot be built within an easement. However, activities such as growing crops and pasturing livestock are permitted in an easement.

Pickwick is concerned about construction noise levels, further "disruption to the neighborhood," and having more trees cut down.

"We're going to lose trees. There's no doubt about it," he said. "Supposedly the trees are going to be replaced, but we'll have to wait and see on that one."

Pickwick is also concerned about the proposed Rover Pipeline's potential impact on the local environment.

"You always have a concern from an environmental standpoint (about) an accident," he said. "I'm sure there's other environmental impact issues that I haven't thought about."

Addison resident Mary Lucisano also has concerns. She attended the open house because the proposed route takes it across her 10 acres of vacant land off Hagerman Rd.

"I'm right on the pipeline," she said. "I'm a little concerned because I don't know if I'm going to lose a lot of value on my property."

Lucisano's owned the property for 10 years. She originally planned to build on it, then the economy tanked and put the kibosh on that idea. Now, it's just an investment that, at some point, she plans to sell.

She doesn't know how the Rover Pipeline could affect her future plans.

"I don't know how people feel – if I'm going to be able to sell the property with that big gas line going through (it)," Lucisano said. "I don't want to be stuck with property I can't sell."

"If (ET Rover) wanted to buy the 10 acres, fine," she added. "But they're not going to buy the 10 acres from me, I'm sure."

She's also concerned about how pipeline construction could impact the property's aesthetic appeal. "It's a beautiful piece of property," Lucisano said. "I have some really lovely woods in the back and (the pipeline's) going to take a section of that out."

In the end, Lucisano's not sure she can stop the Rover Pipeline from crossing her land if she decides she doesn't want it.

"I don't know if I have a choice," she said. "They're too big to fight, so I don't know what's going to happen."

Granado assured that ET Rover/ETP representatives are listening and willing to work to accommodate each landowner.

"We do try to listen to everybody who talks to us about reroute options," she said. "We do consider them. We do what we can, but . . it's (done on) a case-by-case basis."

If a landowner and ET Rover/ETP can't reach an agreement, the company can attempt to obtain an easement through eminent domain, a legal process through which private property can be taken for public use, but the owner must receive just compensation.

However, Granado has previously told the Leader that "ETP views the use of eminent domain as a last resort."

"It is our priority to try to work with each landowner to arrive at an agreement without the use of eminent domain," she said.

Working one-on-one

Lucisano noted she was disappointed the open house didn't include some sort of central presentation for the crowd.

"I was hoping they would have had (a presentation) where people could ask questions," she said. "I wanted to hear what other people's concerns are. Wandering around here, you have to ask your own questions."

Granado said the open house-style is a better method for what ET Rover/ETP is trying to accomplish at this point.

"At this stage in the game, when we're trying to start communicating (about) the project and work with the individual landowners and get (permission to survey their property), it's really a one-on-one kind of relationship," she said.

Pearson said pipeline companies typically prefer to deal with individuals as opposed to groups. "They want to talk to individuals because individually, they can conquer people by writing a check," he said. "And they don't want everybody knowing what everybody else is getting."

It's coming, so get what you can now

In the end, Pearson believes construction of the Rover Pipeline is inevitable.

"It's going to come through no matter what, I know that," he said. "I don't think (residents are) going to stop it from coming through. I don't think there's going to be a point where you're going to stop the whole project.

"I think they're just going to have to move it around and accommodate people."

In the meantime, Pearson advised property owners who are along the proposed pipeline route to be good negotiators with ET Rover/ETP when it comes time to talk compensation.

He said the amount a person receives depends on "how tough you are."

"They're inconveniencing you," Pearson said. "You take what will make you happy. Don't worry about them. They're billionaires. You're not hurting them one iota."

Things like crop damage, tree damage and loss of hunting privileges can all be factored into the compensation, according to Pearson.

"Make yourself happy because when they're gone, they're gone," he said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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