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Landowner views ET Rover survey letter as 'slap in the face'



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August 13, 2014 - ET Rover Pipeline LLC is not endearing itself to Oxford Township resident Bruce Downey nor does he believe the Houston, Texas company is giving him much reason to trust it.

A month ago, ET Rover representatives told Downey, and this newspaper, plans for its proposed natural gas pipeline didn't include crossing his 10.5-acre property on Meadowbrook Ct., north of Granger Rd.

Last week, Downey received a letter from ET Rover requesting permission to survey his property.

"The primary route (for the pipeline) as now planned crosses a portion of your land," stated the Aug. 1 letter.

The week before Downey received this letter, an ET Rover representative knocked on Downey's door requesting permission to survey his land.

"To me, it's kind of a slap in the face," he said. "To me, they're playing games. They're trying to keep you quiet. They're not telling you the true story."

The proposed Rover route, which includes Oxford and Addison townships, includes nearly 600 miles of pipeline ranging in diameter from 24 to 42 inches. If approved, the pipeline could transport between 2.2 billion and 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Marcellus and Utica shale areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to various markets in the United States and, potentially, Canada.

Downey indicated he has absolutely no intention of giving ET Rover, which hopes to begin construction of the pipeline in January 2016, permission to survey his land.

"I've been pretty clear," he said. "Leave me alone. You're not welcome here. I don't want you on my property."

He now feels as though ET Rover is harassing him.

Downey originally approached the Leader in early July because he was concerned the ET Rover Pipeline was going to require a new 60-foot-wide easement (or right-of-way) across his property, which already has three other easements.

His land contains two 30-foot easements for the Canada-based Enbridge company's Line 6B – a 285-mile pipeline that transports crude oil from Griffith, Indiana to Sarnia, Ontario – plus an easement for the DTE Energy high-voltage power lines that run overhead.

Downey is opposed to the idea of potentially giving up more of his land for yet another easement. He's worried another easement could use up the only suitable building space he has left on his property, which contains 4 to 5 acres of woods and wetlands, plus a septic system.

He wants to build a pole barn for his personal storage needs and for training hunting and rescue dogs.

The problem is permanent structures cannot be built within a right-of-way.

Two days after the article about Downey's plight was published on the front page of the July 9 Leader, he was contacted via phone by an ET Rover representative who informed him the proposed pipeline route did not, "at this time," include his property. Downey said he was told it was proposed to run just north of his property.

At ET Rover's July 14 informational open house in Fenton, Downey said he was told face-to-face the proposed pipeline route didn't cross his property.

That same day, Vicki Granado, a spokesperson from the Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners , parent company of ET Rover Pipeline, told this newspaper the pipeline's proposed route never involved Downey's land. She surmised that Downey had "made some assumptions" when he received the "general notification" about the pipeline project and the open houses regarding it.

"The proposed line does not run through his property," she wrote in a July 14 e-mail.

"We were never crossing that gentleman's land to begin with," said Granado in a July 14 voicemail she left for this reporter. "We're in the vicinity, but we are not crossing his property."

This reporter contacted Granado via e-mail to find out why Downey's property is now, according to the Aug. 1 letter requesting survey permission, part of the proposed pipeline route, but she did not provide responses to questions by press time.

In the same July 14 e-mail to this reporter, Granado did note that, "We cannot finalize the route until the surveys are complete. There may be some changes to the route based on the surveys and the information we are getting through the Open Houses we are hosting."

On July 15, Downey had a representative from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) visit his property, at his request, to assess the situation.

FERC is the independent government agency that must approve the pipeline project in order for it to move forward.

ET Rover was supposed to be represented during the FERC visit, but the company decided not to send someone because it claimed the proposed pipeline wasn't going to cross his land, according to Downey.

Downey believes ET Rover didn't show up that day because "I was asking a few too many questions" and "being a little difficult."

"(Either) they didn't appreciate it or they're just trying to keep me quiet," he said.

Downey feels ET Rover has been lying to him from the very beginning.

"They keep jerking people around," he said. "Nobody has any clue where (the pipeline is) really going to go."

When all this began Downey was simply trying to stop the proposed Rover Pipeline from crossing his land or at the very least, make the company use an existing easement instead of obtaining a new one.

Now, he's working to push the proposed Rover Pipeline out of north Oakland County, period. He likes the idea of rerouting it closer to the I-69 corridor because it consists of mostly flat farmland, so it will impact fewer people and fewer environmentally sensitive areas.

That alternative route was proposed by Protecting Our Land and Rights (POLAR), an anti-pipeline group in Brandon Township founded by Jeff Axt.

"We understand the pipeline's going to come through somewhere . . . but at least give it a safer route where there's less people," Downey said. "Our goal is to push it out of the more populated areas."

Downey is concerned about the potential danger of the proposed Rover Pipeline accidentally exploding in or near residential areas where it could destroy houses and kill or injure people.

POLAR has hosted public meetings concerning the proposed Rover Pipeline in both Brandon and Rose townships. Mostly people opposed to the pipeline were in attendance.

"There was about 100 residents at each meeting," Downey said. "The goal of those meetings is to explain to the residents what's going on because a lot of them don't know . . . We're trying to organize (them) to make sure that their voices are heard (by) the FERC."

Downey has organized a similar meeting for Oxford. It's scheduled to happen at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27 at the Oxford Veterans Memorial Civic Center (28 N. Washington St.) in downtown Oxford.

Comments concerning the proposed ET Rover Pipeline project can be submitted to FERC on-line at www.ferc.gov.

Previously submitted comments can be viewed on this website as well. The docket number for the project is PF14-14.

ET Rover is currently in the pre-filing stages of FERC's application process. The company is expected to file its complete application in January 2015.

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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