Citing findings of “a major mistake of scientific fact,” a grassroots organization on Wednesday filed a motion for a formal hearing on the Nexus Gas Transmission Project pipeline that is currently sited to run near the Bowling Green water intake and treatment plant.
United Communities for Protecting Our Water and Elevating Rights seeks a hearing before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission due to, among other issues, what it says are threats posed to the public drinking supply by drilling planned across the Bowling Green fault and the pipeline’s installation under the Maumee River.
Attorney Terry Lodge, who filed the motion for the group, said the action is coming late in the game, but the perceived risks necessitated the move.
“This is deep in the fourth quarter. We discovered around Nov. 30, when the (environmental impact statement) came out, that FERC, even though they were told that the BG fault is at the surface, didn’t show it,” Lodge said.
“What we are hoping to do is have the agency investigate this and find that they made a gross error by stating the fault is buried and of no concern, when in fact it is at the surface and is a grave concern.”
UC4POWER member Lisa Kochheiser, of Bowling Green, says it’s of utmost importance to make these findings public, no matter what the outcome.
“We have to try this, whether we get a hearing or not, whether they listen to us or not, we have to make this situation known,” Kochheiser said. “And it’s been kept quiet for two years. And it’s shocking, it’s absolutely shocking, because this is going to affect a lot of people. It’s going to affect the river, and Lake Erie ultimately if something goes wrong. And as we have found out, there is a high risk that something could go wrong.”
The expert findings by Andrew Kear, an assistant professor at Bowling Green State University with both the School of Earth, Environment and Society and the Department of Political Science, support the grassroots group’s claim that the FERC’s environmental impact statement on the Nexus pipeline is incomplete. The geologist calls for more investigation into the risks posed by the Bowling Green fault, and calls its characterization in the environmental impact statement “inadequate” because the impact statement “is clearly refuted by satellite imagery, on-the-ground observation, and a 1984 U.S. Geologic Survey photograph of the Bowling Green Fault Zone…”
Kear calls for the completion of a karst study, which has been mandated but not conducted. The fragile and porous nature of karst, noted for its swiss cheese-like construction, makes placing a pipeline over it risky for drinking water supplies, Kear notes. Karst also heightens the possibility for collapse and sinkholes to form, making it a potentially expensive operational problem as well.
Another issue not addressed in the FERC impact statement is the activity at the Hanson Aggregates Quarry in Waterville and what effect it could have on the pipeline stability, when coupled with the potential effects from the Bowling Green fault.
“Given the inadequate characterization of the BG fault system in the FEIS, further geophysical and geotechnical investigation is warranted to adequately characterize the risk potential from the pipeline as it crosses both the Maumee River and the fault system,” Kear concluded.
Further, Kear characterizes the type of rock the pipeline would encounter at the Maumee River and the conditions required to drill through it — which were noted in the FERC statement itself — as being unduly risky and costly. Kear analyzed a report found in the appendix of the final environmental impact statement that contained a Nexus-paid study conducted by Fluor Enterprises and Fugro Consultants. It concluded the riverbed has “very poor quality bedrock” and notes “according to preliminary field logs, the bedrock is characterized by extreme fracturing, which in some cases can be problematic for installation by HDD (horizontal directional drilling).” Kear concurs with the study which concludes, “Due to subsurface conditions, the risk level associated with the proposed crossing of the Maumee River is high.”
The UC4POWER filing asserts that not only could a pipeline leak contaminate the regional drinking water supply, it could also contaminate the Maumee River and Lake Erie, and the possibility of leaks of drilling fluid also poses a health threat.
“One thing our geologist suggests is that they’ll have to use huge amount of lubricants in drilling operations (under the Maumee River) and you don’t know what the water connectedness is to the fault. You could be lubricating the fault,” Lodge said. “If you followed the fracking-related earthquakes, those are typically the result of injecting oily hydrocarbons into the ground that lubricates fractured areas. You’re making the cracks lubricated so they can move.
“That’s when minor tremor earthquakes can happen where they haven’t before.”
When looking at the possible impact on Bowling Green’s water supply, Kear concludes, “From a risk-assessment perspective, one would be hard pressed to pick a location that threatens public health and safety more than this location does.”
Lodge intends Kear’s work to paint a fuller picture of the potential problems posed by the pipeline project.
“Until Dr. Kear, no one brought together the basket of all these concerns,” Lodge said.
Lodge said that the structure of the commission, which has only three of its five allotted members, has plunged the regulatory process into uncertainty.
“There is a lot of pressure because only three of five commissioners are there. One gave notice last week that he was resigning this Friday,” Lodge said. “They can only do official business in a quorum. The whole drilling industry is all over FERC because there are at least five applications hanging fire, including Rover and Nexus. I sent a protest letter to FERC saying do not fast track this.”
He’s uncertain how or when the motion will be addressed.
“It is very difficult to tell because of the resignation what they are going to do, or if they’ll suddenly rubber stamp the application. I’m hopeful they won’t.”
Kochheiser said the ultimate goal of Wednesday’s filing is to halt the pipeline.
“Of course, ultimately, what we would like to do is stop it altogether from happening, if there’s a way. Opposition to this just keeps coming up with as many things as we can to try to slow down their timeline,” Kochheiser said. “Because the more we can slow things down for them, the higher the risk that something could fall through for them.”
Sentinel-Tribune Staff Writer Peter Kuebeck contributed to this report.