June 26, 2002
Gas pipeline project dies; Stark cheers
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — An energy company that planned to build a bitterly opposed 400-mile natural gas pipeline through Ohio and
Pennsylvania pulled the plug on it this week.
In papers filed late Monday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, El Paso Corp. said it couldn’t get enough support from
customers who would use the Independence Pipeline.
The pipeline would have moved gas from Defiance, Ohio, to Leidy, Pa. It would have gone through parts of Stark County, including
Lawrence, Jackson, Plain, Lake, Marlboro, Nimishillen and Washington townships.
Farmers and other property owners in Ohio and Pennsylvania were opposed to the pipeline, which would have run through their
land. Many complained that surveyors for the project broke trespassing laws and were cavalier and rude.
“We are absolutely so happy, I don’t know how to describe happy,” said Gary Carter, vice president of Stark County Landowners
Association, an opponent of the project. Fighting the project was “six years of hell,” said Carter.
Reflecting the degree of bitterness the pipeline plan generated, Carter called its developers “the most rude, conspiring, lying group
of people I have ever encountered in my life.”
Independence was unable to get long-term commitments from enough local distribution companies, electric generators and
marketers that would have used the pipeline to transport gas, El Paso attorney Janice Alperin said in a motion filed with the
The Regulatory Commission required the company to have commitments equaling at least 68 percent of the capacity of the pipeline.
“Independence does not have transportation service commitments sufficient to satisfy this condition and to proceed with the
construction of the facilities and does not foresee obtaining such commitments in the near future,” Alperin said.
The Regulatory Commission approved the 5-year-old project two years ago, but construction had not begun. In recent months,
developers had missed deadlines set by the commission, including a requirement to file an environmental assessment last
El Paso’s request to cancel the project came two days before Wednesday’s meeting of the Regulatory Commission, which planned to consider a request to extend the deadline for completing the project. The agency must formally OK the abandonment of the project, a government spokeswoman said.
Mel Scott, a spokesman for El Paso, declined to say whether opposition to the pipeline encouraged its demise. “I’m not going to
speculate,” he said. “There just was not market support for the project.”
One key change that may have affected the pipeline’s fate was the merger of ANR Pipeline, an original partner in the project, into El
Paso. In early 2001, El Paso acquired Coastal Corp., ANR’s parent. El Paso, a Houston-based energy company, is the largest
operator of gas pipelines in the nation.
Among those who opposed the pipeline was U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township. “That’s great news for a lot of people,” he said of the decision.
Regula said he wasn’t surprised the company lacked commitments. Its attitude was “build it and they (customers) will follow,” he
said. “The important thing we did was to insist they had contracts, and this was the farmers, the people opposed to it (who pressed
the Regulatory Commission to require contracts). And everyone took the position they should not give them a license until they had
bona fide contracts.”
“This is a monumental victory for us actually,” said Alliance resident James Dixon, secretary of the Landowner’s Association. “If we
had just stood by and let (the) thing go, they would probably have an easement that would go straight through the state of Ohio.
“If you get one little breach in that pipeline and something to set it off, ground zero is about a half mile,” said Dixon. “It’s like sitting
on top of a bomb.”
“I still maintain I don’t understand why a company would want to build a pipeline of that magnitude through residential areas ...,” Jim
McGeorge of Jackson Township, former chairman of the Stark County Citizens against the Pipeline, said. “The construction of it was
going to make a mess all along the route and disrupt people’s lives. There was a remote chance there could be an explosion from a
Alliance resident Dieter Teutsch opposed the pipeline because it would have been built 200 feet from his house.
“I’m glad they finally saw the light, because we’ve been hanging in limbo since 1997,” he said Tuesay. “... I’m happy that they
withdrew their request for a pipeline because it would have really disrupted my lifestyle.”
Repository staff writer Robert Wang contributed to this story.