Underground pipeline coming through Ohio

Governments gain, property owners push back

The ATEX Express Pipeline will be cutting through Ohio this year, creating as many as 4,000 jobs and disrupting properties along its 1,200-mile path from Texas to Pennsylvania.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Click to see where pipeline will run >>

Local governments along the pipeline route are looking forward to the latest infusion of new tax revenue once the project begins transporting ethane early next year. But some property owners are upset about interruptions during construction and the taking of property easements for the project. Those residents are resisting efforts to get them to grant construction — and permanent — easements.

The project is expected to begin in April. According to Enterprise, the pipeline will cross 265 miles in 13 Ohio counties, including Greene, Warren and Butler and create hundreds of jobs — the vast majority during construction.

“We’ve already started clearing the right-of-way in preparation for construction,” Rick Rainey, spokesman for Enterprise Pipeline, said last week. “There’s not any situation at this time that would lead us to believe it would cause a delay in construction.”

Enterprise declined to say how much it planned to spend on the project and estimates of the new pipeline’s added value were unavailable. The Rockies Express Pipeline, built along the same route in 2009, added more than $100 million in property value in Warren County, according to the county auditor’s office.

Heading west from Indiana, liquid ethane will flow through existing pipe all the way to Texas. New pipe will be installed in Pennsylvania, Ohio and a small stretch of western Indiana, Rainey said.

Unhappy property owners

To make way for the pipeline, company representatives negotiate construction access and purchase permanent easements, and file lawsuits to enforce compliance with laws that grant the company eminent domain powers usually reserved for public projects.

“The perception is we take their land. We don’t. We pay them a fee to go underneath their property,” Rainey said.

Four years ago, Marilyn and Larry Denny were among affected property owners who fought installation of the Rockies Express Pipeline from Colorado to Ohio, following a similar route to the Texas Eastern Pipeline in 1960. They eventually settled in federal court in Columbus.

PHOTOS: Learn more about the Dennys and their farm >>

In January, Enterprise filed a lawsuit against the Dennys in Warren County Common Pleas Court, estimating 92 percent of easements were in place and urging the court to grant the company eminent domain in the Denny dispute. The Dennys, who live and operate a horse farm on the property north of Lebanon, rejected a $1,780 offer, according to the lawsuit.

“Most people don’t like to stand up and fight. They just feel like they get run over,” said Larry Denny. “I’m going to fight ‘em for what it’s worth.”

Like existing pipelines, the ATEX Express would follow a path along the back of the Denny property. During construction, the Dennys expect to lose access to two mounds used in training carriage horses, some ranked worldwide.

While grass also is replanted, the Dennys expect to be left to return the ground to a condition ensuring safe crossing by the carriage teams.

“They don’t really know what they’re taking from me,” said Denny, a lawyer. “It interrupts what you do. It tears up the ground.”

Boosting local governments

While upsetting some residents, the underground pipelines boost revenues for local governments.

“You have a tax base that is there, that is not visible, but is there,” said Gus Edwards, administrator of Wayne Twp. in Warren County. “Other than some properties where it’s going through residential and not agricultural, it’s minimal invasion with a decent tax return.”

Currently in Warren County, the public utility personal property value from the already established Rockies Express pipeline is $107,814,970 — $29,492,860 to Wayne Twp., according to the county auditor’s office. This year the various taxing entities in Wayne Twp. are anticipated to collect more than $2.1 million in tax revenues, with more than $8.6 million collected countywide. The values are set annually by the Ohio Dept of Taxation. So far there are no estimates of value added from the ATEX project.

The pipeline project is subject to state and federal oversight. For example, Enterprise is seeking a water-quality permit from the Ohio EPA. The route would “impact” 648 water bodies, 228 wetlands and 20.4 acres of wetlands, according to the EPA.

“Discharges from activity, if approved, would result in degradation to, or lowering of the water quality of water bodies located along the pipeline route,” according to public notice of an the EPA permit process. There is one area public meeting on March 18 at the Sibcy Cline office in Lebanon.

Last week, Clearcreek Twp. trustees adopted an agreement covering road repairs required after construction. Warren County Engineer Neil Tunison said the agreement was modeled after those established with Chesapeake Energy in response to road damage resulting from exploration for natural gas in Utica shale formations in eastern Ohio. Chesapeake is heading exploration, often using recovery techniques known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” that have prompted questions from environmentalists.

The first leg of the ATEX pipeline will originate in Washington County, Pa. and cross 369 miles through Ohio to Seymour, Ind., where it will connect to an existing Enterprise pipeline to the Texas Gulf Coast.

In Texas, Enterprise plans to construct a new 55-mile pipeline from Beaumont to the company’s natural gas liquids storage complex in Mont Belvieu, Tex.

During eight to 10 months of construction on the ATEX Express, a handful of crews, each of 500 to 700 workers throughout the pipeline’s 1,200 mile path, will install different stretches of the pipeline, Rainey said. Communities will benefit by providing services to the crews, ranging from equipment rental to meals and lodging, Rainey said.

Upon completion, about 20 Enterprise employees will monitor the line, Rainey added. “The pipeline itself is actually monitored and controlled from a center in Houston,” he said.

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