Pipeline companies are in the business of burying their product. But unless they want the public to be
suspicious, the companies need to do a better job of putting their plans out in the open.
There are currently three pipeline companies plotting routes through Wood County. The biggest would go
through the southern portion, the next largest would pass in the northern half, and the smallest across
the northern edge.
Most would agree that pipelines are the most efficient and safe way to transport highly explosive natural
gas. But that’s of little consolation for the landowners who will have the pipelines as new neighbors.
The property owners have many questions. But few answers are forthcoming from pipeline officials.
In the case of the Rover pipeline, which will cross southern Wood County, plans initially called for one
42-inch line to travel across Ohio and into Michigan and Canada. Due to demands for the natural gas, the
plans doubled in size to now involve side-by-side 42-inch lines.
That information was not shared with us here at the Sentinel-Tribune by the pipeline company. We heard
from another source, and questioned pipeline officials when they visited our office earlier this month.
They confirmed the expanded plans, and said they had explained the project at several public meetings
held along the pipeline path. None of those meetings, however, was in Wood County.
Pipeline officials seemed pleased that they had held 13 public meetings — which would be impressive
except for the fact that the line travels more than 800 miles.
The company spokespeople also assured us that Rover staff will not just pick up and leave after the line
is buried. Employees will remain in the area and be “neighbors” to the project.
Their definition of “neighbor” differs greatly from mine, since they will have 20 to 30 employees
spanning the 800-mile pipeline.
Company officials also speak a different language than local farmers, whose fields will certainly be
impacted by the line. Farmers worry about their patchwork of tiles draining their fields, and compaction
of the soil by the heavy construction equipment, and the loss of valuable topsoil as the lines are
buried. The scope of the project requires landowners to sign off on 60-foot permanent easements and
potential 150-foot temporary easements during construction.
Farmers and their attorneys have reported getting low-ball offers for the easements. One mentioned that
owners of the shale oil sites will receive checks each year, while the landowners here get paid just
once for the ongoing inconvenience of the pipeline transporting the product.
An attorney who has represented many farmers in pipeline projects said some pipeline companies use
bullying tactics or legal threats to get people to sign over easements.
No one wants their property dug up to have a pipe pumping natural gas buried beneath. So the least the
pipeline companies can do is be honest about the ramifications, be fair in their payments, and be
accessible for questions.
This line will be profitable. So why not spring for another public meeting for local people whose land
will be dug up? To some people, a face-to-face meeting with an opportunity to ask questions is all they
need to calm their concerns.
Most people are far more likely to trust the quality of work buried underground when we can see the
quality of the company doing the job.