Duke’s Central Corridor Pipeline – Unnecessary, Irresponsible, Not for Us
On Thursday, November 21, 2019, after a 3 year battle against this unnecessary, irresponsible high pressure pipeline, OPSB voting members approved Duke’s application for the Central Corridor Pipeline Extension Project. OPSB followed Staff recommendations, deciding on Duke’s “alternate route”, also referred to as the Green Line.
NOPE and other Municipal Intervenors have filed Applications for a Rehearing, which was approved by the Administrative Law Judge on January 17, 2020.
This ruling is a win for NOPE and our Municipal Intervenors. It gives OPSB additional time to consider the legitimate legal issues and evidentiary concerns that were raised. At the same time, OPSB’s order issuing the pipeline approval certificate is stayed pending their ultimate decision on whether to grant rehearing
In non-legal terms, this means that until OPSB rehearing proceedings have been completed (assuming a rehearing is granted), Duke does not have approval to begin construction of the Central Corridor Pipeline Project.
Overview – Post Hearing Legal Briefs
In April, adjudicatory hearings were held in Columbus, with expert witnesses testifying and attorneys conducting cross examination. Following the hearings, attorneys for Intervenors, (including NOPE), and Duke and OPSB submitted post hearing legal briefs.
Point by point, NOPE’s counsel dismantles Duke’s assertion that this pipeline is necessary, while questioning the level of due diligence that Duke and the Ohio Power Siting Board performed in evaluating this project.
By comparison, Duke’s arguments read more like a regurgitation of its original application, asserting the need for this pipeline without bothering to address any of the specific counterarguments made by NOPE, the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, the many other intervenors representing several local cities and towns, and thousands of residents.
It’s almost as if, despite unprecedented local opposition, Duke is expecting to receive a rubber stamp..
That attitude may be understandable, given the Ohio Power Siting Board staff’s inability or unwillingness to treat Duke’s application with even the slightest degree of skepticism.
At every turn, the Siting Board Staff appears to accept Duke’s statements at face value. While its own legal brief acknowledges widespread opposition to the project, it fails to consider any of the substantive points raised by that opposition.
Stunningly, the Board’s staff presents itself as rising “above the fray” of local groups, which “advance a parochial viewpoint opposing this pipeline”. (This is an especially odd perspective, since Duke claims the pipeline is solely for local “parochial” use and benefit ). Regardless, it never seems to occur to the Siting Board staff these so-called “local interests” are Ohio residents, and those residents are the ones whose interests the Board is supposed to protect through rigorous independent analysis.
Here are the FACTS, as NOPE Undestands them:
#1 – A new pipeline is not needed to replace aging infrastructure.
By Duke’s own admission, the company can and will continue to replace its existing infrastructure with or without the Central Corridor Pipeline. Much of its current system is being replaced already.
#2 – Demand for an entirely new high-pressure pipeline does not exist.
As the Ohio Power Siting Board staff admitted in cross-examination, data from the Ohio Development Services shows that the Hamilton County population is expected to decrease over the next 20 years. Meanwhile, Duke’s own Gas System Master Plan for this area describes limited customer growth and flat demand “due primarily to energy efficiency programs, better home insulation, and more efficient natural gas appliances.”
#3 – Duke’s propane air plants can provide safe and reliable supplemental gas well into the future.
Adam Long, who is in charge of Duke‘s propane plant operations, acknowledged in cross-examination that Duke’s propane peaking facilities are safe, up to date, and will continue to provide supplemental gas and pressure if a new pipeline is not approved. No qualified experts submitted evidence that the propane plant and caverns need to be retired, and Duke has not shown a single instance where the use of these plants has resulted in a service outage. Duke hasn’t even factored the cost of decommissioning propane plants into the pipeline’s $130 million price tag, which customers must pay if the pipeline is approved, and in fact Duke plans to keep using these plants for “several years” even if it gets a new pipeline.
#4 – The proposed pipeline is the wrong solution to address system “balance.”
NOPE’s expert witness, Dr. Jean-Michel Guldmann, asserted that the Central Corridor Pipeline would have little impact on balancing the supply of gas from northern and southern sources. Duke’s Gary Hebbeler acknowledged in his own statements that this pipeline would not meaningfully change Duke’s system balance or reduce outages if Duke’s current system experienced a major failure. If Duke’s goal is to improve balance, better alternatives exist that the Company did not even consider or investigate.
#5 – Duke relied on flawed methodology to prove the need for a new pipeline.
An independent audit found that the methods Duke has used to forecast natural gas demand are statistically invalid and have resulted in inflated forecasts.
#6 – Duke is gaming the system to escape stricter oversight.
By classifying the Central Corridor Pipeline Extension as a “distribution” line, Duke is hoping to avoid the more stringent integrity management plans that apply to natural gas transmission lines. Even so, the proposed project is similar in size and pressure to other transmission lines that Duke already operates, and it’s not being used for local distribution. Common sense tells us that a pipeline connecting one transmission line to another transmission line, without any lines feeding homes or businesses, is also a transmission line. Duke should not be allowed to escape appropriate oversight by relying on a dubious interpretation of state regulations.
As NOPE attorney James Yskamp points out in his arguments, the state’s official default position toward new pipeline projects is “‘shall not grant,’ and thus the burden of persuasion is properly on the applicant.”
In an ideal world, Duke would have to prove that this pipeline is necessary by addressing the many flaws, faulty assumptions, and glaring oversights in its arguments. And if the Company failed to do so, the State would act as a check against corporate greed and arrogance.
Hopefully, in the world of the Ohio Power Siting Board, staying “above the fray” won’t prove more important than protecting the public interest.
What happens next?
The next step will be filing of Rebuttal Briefs (due June 10th) and then all goes to the Ohio Power Siting Board, appointed by Governor DeWine. (See calendar at the end of this newsletter for more details.)
All the Adjudicatory Testimony, evidentiary documents, and Briefs are available in the Case Record (16-253-GA-BTX) of the OPSB website.
Thanks to many in the NOPE community who have donated funds, so that we could hire an attorney to protect our interests. Your continued financial support will be critical in the coming months, as we progress through the legal proceedings. Please donate if you can!
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About the Central Corridor Pipeline
Duke Energy is planning to build a large natural gas pipeline right in the middle of our neighborhoods. This is not like the distribution lines under our streets or the lines that bring gas to our homes. This is a high-pressure, high-capacity pipeline that would put thousands of homes at risk from a potential explosion, along with schools, hospitals, day care centers, and places of worship–all to transport far more natural gas through the area than ever before.
NOPE has been leading the charge against Duke’s plans. Since April 2016, we have held multiple Town Hall meetings, conducted door-to-door campaigns, rallied the support of local governments, and poured countless hours into researching Duke’s plans. We have also filed formal intervention against the pipeline with the Ohio Power Siting Board, ensuring that the entire community has a seat at the table.
The result of these efforts has been a major public outcry against the project, and opposition from businesses, schools, and elected officials. As Duke seeks approval from the state, our continuing mission is to educate residents, advocate for the community, and hold Duke accountable for the Central Corridor Gas Pipeline Extension Project.
Want to learn more about the Central Corridor Pipeline Extension? Read NOPE’s FAQ
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