November 24, 2014

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Lorain County landowners learn about planned natural gas pipeline

NRG Energy Inc. official Alan Sawyer explains proposed natural gas pipeline plans to Carolyn Reinders, of Carlisle Township, on Wednesday evening. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

NRG Energy Inc. official Alan Sawyer explains proposed natural gas pipeline plans to Carolyn Reinders, of Carlisle Township, on Wednesday evening. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

GRAFTON — The coal-fired NRG Power Plant in Avon Lake will close if it doesn’t convert to natural gas.

That was the response of Alan Sawyer, NRG Energy Inc. director of asset management, when asked about the fate of the plant if a natural gas pipeline isn’t built. He spoke during a Wednesday night open house in Grafton.

NRG officials are obtaining easement rights from landowners across the county to build a 20-mile, 24-inch pipeline which requires a 50-foot permanent easement for operation and maintenance.

The steel line, which would be buried at a minimum depth of three feet in the ground, or four feet on farmland, would extend south from the power plant to an existing natural gas pipeline southwest of Grafton owned and operated by Dominion East Ohio.

A map shows the proposed plan for a natural gas pipeline spanning the length of Lorain County.

A map shows the proposed plan for a natural gas pipeline spanning the length of Lorain County.

Sawyer said the line is a necessity because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandated the power plant must institute an array of pollution control devices by April 2015 if it is to remain coal fired. Previous owner Genon Energy announced in 2013 such a mandate wasn’t economically feasible and the plant would close.

Sawyer said NRG purchased the property after a merger with Genon and came up with a plan to convert it to natural gas. Although Sawyer declined to say how much it would cost to build the pipeline, he said it’s cheaper “by hundreds of millions of dollars” than instituting the pollution control devices.

The power plant, which was the largest polluter of air in Lorain County according to previous Chronicle-Telegram reports, will be much cleaner once the conversion to gas is made, Sawyer said.

Ohio has the second-highest death rate from overall power plant emissions, according to the Clean Air Task Force, an environmental watchdog that sued the EPA for tougher mercury emission standards.

“Natural gas is a much cleaner-burning fuel with much less pollution and environmental impact,” Sawyer said, adding that mercury and heavy metal emissions will be eliminated.

Jim Plas, a third-generation farmer in southern Lorain County, said the pipeline would travel along the property line of his and his brother’s farmland.

“It’s a potential time bomb,” Plas said.

Plas said he talked with an attorney who said the $6 to $12 per foot he’s been offered isn’t enough — and $30 a foot is more reasonable.

“What’s it going to do for me?” Plas asked. “I can’t get gas off of it. Once it’s there I can farm it, but I can’t sell it off for houses, put trees on it or a fence on it.”

NRG officials didn’t comment on what they are offering landowners, but they did say the potential for explosions are few and far between. Kevin Frederick, a design engineer working with NRG, said homes along Royalton Road, and in many parts of Lorain County, already are served by high-pressure gas lines.

But that may not ease the minds of those who have read news reports of deadly gas line explosions. In 2010 a California explosion killed eight people, injured dozens and destroyed 38 homes, resulting in criminal charges against the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for violations of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Third generation Grafton farmer Jim Plas reviews maps of the proposed pipeline plans on Wednesday.

Third generation Grafton farmer Jim Plas reviews maps of the proposed pipeline plans on Wednesday.

According to news reports, federal inspectors said the utility failed to inspect older pipelines in its systems that were subject to pressure surges. PG&E pleaded not guilty last week to 28 counts of safety violations and lying to government investigators after the explosion.

Frederick said explosions he’s read about usually involve older lines that were not equipped with the latest technologies, which include durable pipe coatings, electrical currents that deter erosion and X-ray inspections of pipe welds. He said NRG will adhere to rigorous safety standards.

Carolyn Reinders, of Twin Creek Farms in Carlisle Township, is worried she won’t be able to lease portions of her farmland once the pipeline goes through.

“Looking at a bunch of maps doesn’t tell me anything,” she said. “Nobody’s agreed to anything yet because we just don’t know what it all means.”

Sawyer said once easements are granted, landowners cannot build structures or plant trees, but they can farm or build hard surfaces like patios on the easement.

Avon resident Ellen Braatz, who has lived on 7½ acres on Case Road for 40 years, said she doesn’t like the idea of living close to a high-pressure gas line. She also doesn’t like that decades-old trees will be removed to make way for it.

“It’s certainly not worth going through the back of my property for that,” said Braatz, who was offered $12 per lineal foot.

Sawyer said NRG has the option to take land under eminent domain, but it will take that path only as a last resort.

“Our goal is to not have to use eminent domain,” Sawyer said. “We’ve talked to every landowner on the map, we’ve contacted them all, and we’re trying to figure out how to get their minds at ease.”

Avon Lake resident Ron Kovach Jr. attended the open house to learn more about how the project will keep the power plant open. Kovach does not have land affected by the pipeline.

“I’m just hoping to see the plant continue operating,” he said. “It will be good for the community, tax base and schools.”

Sawyer said about 120 landowners, who own 200 parcels, will be affected by the project.

Contact Jon Wysochanski at 329-7123 or jwysochanski@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonWysochanski. 

Pipeline Project

  • A second open house to discuss a proposed natural gas pipeline is 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. today at Tom’s Country Place, 3442 Stoney Ridge Road, Avon.


  • GreatRedeemer

    A pdf of the lines route instead of a picture would be most helpful.

  • Jeff

    “Our goal is to not have to use eminent domain,”
    Seems like every time we hear those words, it’s time to bend over and touch your toes.

  • Otter

    Playing the devil’s advocate, here. 120 land owners effected, out of the total population, or face the (appears likely) possibility that the power plant will close, jobs gone, taxes gone, and then the finger pointing blame game can start.

    • Pablo Jones

      Most of the people affected don’t live in Avon and therefore wouldn’t benefit from those jobs or taxes.

      • Otter

        How do you figure? Didn’t the closing of the Lorain Ford plant effect more than just the people in Lorain?

        • Pablo Jones

          The plant will pay taxes (on any profits and property) to the city/schools. Other cities won’t receive those taxes. The workers will pay income taxes to Avon Lake as well. Depending on where they live the probably won’t pay income taxes to their home city on what they earn working there.

          Ford employed several thousand people and had multiple suppliers in the area, so closing and losing jobs did affect multiple cities if people had to move out and the loss of the spending of those people in the area.

          The power plant doesn’t employ as many people and other businesses won’t close up if it closes. So unless those people outside of the city work for the power plant, it makes no difference to them if it stays open or closes.

          • Otter

            Oh, okay, they are too small to matter.

          • Pablo Jones

            It matters to the people that work there and the people that live in the city. But to others that live outside the city it just won’t affect them.

          • Otter

            Just an example of what’s wrong with people, if it doesn’t effect ” me”, it doesn’t matter.

          • Pablo Jones

            Well the proper saying would be if it doesn’t affect me (or the people it doesn’t affect), it doesn’t matter to me (or the people it doesn’t affect). I never said it didn’t matter, I said it matters to those in the city and those that work there. But it will have a very minimal affect outside of the community. Many businesses close each year, life goes on and most people never even notice. That is just the reality of it, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with people.

            If you had 2 choices of where to buy a product, one local and one from across the country for the same price which would you buy? Local? What if this sale would determine the fate of the stores, the one that doesn’t get the order will close. Would you buy local so a local business stays open? If so does that mean the jobs and the people across the country don’t matter to you? It’s all about perspective.

          • Otter

            Your ability to twist a story, to suit your needs does not impress me. Just my opinion, there are many people out there who only care if effects them, and I think it’s wrong. Period, end of conversation.

  • Pablo Jones

    “Ohio has the second-highest death rate from overall power plant emissions, according to the Clean Air Task Force,”

    There is no direct link to deaths from power plant emissions. What the study did was compare particulate matter effects on people (smoking) and then extrapolate based on emissions of power plants and population density. A smoker breathes in X amount of particulate matter and has a Y% chance of developing different types of medical issues or dying. The higher X the higher Y. So naturally a power plant the produces tons of particulate matter so the rates of illnesses increases. They then multiply it by population density and say so many people die from the power plant. But in reality people aren’t sucking on the smoke stacks and there is no direct or statistical evidence that people are getting sick or dying solely due to the power plants.

  • INavon

    Are there people out there who still don’t know the difference between Avon and Avon Lake?. I don’t think it was a typo

  • golfingirl

    A direct result of the “War on Coal.”

    Thank you Senator Brown!

    • Kista Atkins

      Exactly

  • Phil Blank

    Yes, I know they need the plant, the jobs and the tax from the plant.
    But PG&E’s pipes are in the land of earthquakes and they cause pipe breaks.

    Explosions are more than Dominion wants to admit.
    Google “natural gas pipeline explosion” there are a lot of them!

  • Stan K

    PAY THE PEOPLE what they want already,for the profit they make on natural gas its a no brainer.This is just another example of the companies being greedy.They keep talking about how rich ohio is in natural gas.Give it up already.The amount they will have to pay these people in the long run is Pennies compared to what they will save in paying fines for coal emmisions.More corporate greed running wild.

  • Sis Delish

    “Jim Plas, a third-generation farmer in southern Lorain County, said the pipeline would travel along the property line of his and his brother’s farmland.

    “It’s a potential time bomb,” Plas said.

    Plas said he talked with an attorney who said the $6 to $12 per foot he’s been offered isn’t enough — and $30 a foot is more reasonable.

    “What’s it going to do for me?” Plas asked. “I can’t get gas off of it. Once it’s there I can farm it, but I can’t sell it off for houses, put trees on it or a fence on it.”

    Well, Jim, then ask the County for Tax Abatement on the portion of the Land you describe.

    P.S. I find it interesting that the pipeline is described as a potential time bomb, but the farmer is willing to take that risk, IF “the price is right”.

  • http://politicsarepersonalblog.blogspot.com/ Suzan Smith

    I checked to see if we could get natural gas for our house and was told the nearest line was over 18,000 ft away & it would cost us $46.foot to run the line!! What ever happened to the gas companies wanting residential users??

    • Pablo Jones

      Nothing is free. Would you spend $10,000 to gain a customer that will only give you a profit of $100 a year? That is 100 years just to break even. Now if you had 100+ people in your area that also wanted NG then it might be beneficial to run the line to your area.