Feds: Natural gas line poses minimal risk for Detroit

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

The proposed natural gas pipeline from Ohio into southeast Michigan represents a minimal environmental threat, according to federal officials.

In an environmental assessment released this week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said while the Nexus project would create “some adverse environmental impacts,” mitigation efforts would reduce them to “less-than-significant levels.” The 250-mile-plus underground line would carry natural gas from Kensington, Ohio, to Ypsilanti, where it will hook into DTE Energy’s system.

With FERC’s approval in hand, DTE and Ontario/Houston-based partner Spectra Energy’s Nexus Gas Transmission LLC require only a certificate from the federal agency to begin work on the pipeline. That certificate could arrive as soon as this spring.

“It’s a positive review in that it says all of the concerns brought up - (FERC) believes the remedies proposed for Nexus are acceptable,” said Peter Ternes, communication for DTE’s gas operations.

FERC officials based their findings on factors including:

■Roughly 120 miles of the proposed line will be located on current utility line paths and rights of way.

■Mitigation plans submitted by Nexus’ partners covered erosion and sediment control, spill prevention and wetlands protection and replacement.

■Agreement on an environmental compliance inspection program.

Nancy Shiffler, who chairs the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, said the organization will continue to challenge the project on environmental grounds. The group has contended that DTE and its partners failed to look at options other than a new pipeline.

“When the club gets into a battle like this, we intend to be in it for the long haul,” Shiffler said. “We will continue to look for avenues that allow us to continue to oppose the Nexus line.”

The pipeline also faces other challenges. Last month, the Sierra Club filed an antitrust complaint against DTE, claiming the Nexus line would result in increased consumer energy prices.

“DTE Electric has contracted to buy delivery of natural gas over the pipeline for use in generating electricity for resale to Michigan retail customers,” Sierra Club officials wrote in a Nov. 16 letter to the Federal Trade Commission.

“When DTE Electric entered into this contract, at least six alternative sources of gas were available to transport the needed supply. All six offered transportation services at lower rates than Nexus Nonetheless, DTE Electric contracted to buy gas from (the) proposed pipeline, despite the availability of these less-costly alternatives.”

On Thursday, DTE’s Ternes highlighted the benefits of increasing the use of natural gas over coal.

“This will aid in that conversion by allowing low-priced natural gas to come up to Michigan,” he said. “It has the benefit to the environment of burning 50 percent less carbon than coal.”

JLynch@detroitnews.com

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