By Amy Beth Graves
Henry County Farm Bureau member Rob Rettig had a sincere desire to show federal regulators firsthand how a proposed pipeline would affect his property and invited them to his farm. His offer came at the end of his testimony during a pipeline scoping meeting in Defiance with officials from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The agency is in charge of approval, permitting and siting for the proposed pipeline.
Rettig was surprised when an email arrived later that night from the FERC officials asking if they could visit his farm the next morning.
“I was shocked and so was our attorney. I worked around (my schedule) because if they wanted to come out, I wasn’t going to deny them that possibility,” said Rettig, who helps run New Vision Farms, a partnership of three family farming operations.
During the 75-minute visit, Rettig showed the four FERC officials how the proposed pipeline’s route would affect drainage systems. The $4.3 billion Rover Pipeline is the largest of three proposed pipeline projects in Ohio. The 823-mile pipeline would run from southeast Ohio west to Defiance County and up into Michigan and Canada.
“It was huge for them to see the property because they could see how flat it is and how difficult it is to get rid of water. They saw how the pipeline’s route would be perpendicular to the water flow and would be cutting it off,” Rettig said.
The FERC officials asked many questions and seemed surprised that altering the route just 50 feet could result in significantly less damage to the farm and drainage systems, said Rettig, who showed the officials GPS technology for drainage location and land productivity.
The FERC representatives said they may do a follow-up visit or phone call with Rettig as they continue to hold the scoping meetings across the state.
“I thought they would be just going through the motions, but they seemed very genuinely engaged and came up with possibilities I hadn’t thought of,” Rettig said. “It just goes to show that sometimes we don’t think we can make a difference but we really can.”
Make your voice heard at pipeline scope meetings
Over the next 10 years, Ohio is expected to have at least 38,000 miles of pipeline development statewide. Ohio residents are encouraged to attend upcoming scope meetings held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is the governing body for the pipelines’ permits and environmental and economic evaluations.
The purpose of the meetings is not to debate the pipelines but to address what economic and environmental impact the conduits will have for landowners and communities, said Dale Arnold, OFBF’s director of energy policy. He anticipates the next round of meetings will start in late winter or early spring.
“Most farmers feel like they’re right smack dab in the middle of the issue. They see how the construction of the pipeline benefits the community’s access to cost-effective fuel and can enhance the community. But on the other hand, it’s going across their property and they want it protected,” he said.