Nexus 'private' public comment meetings come under fire

From The Plain Dealer Some residents along the proposed 255-mile Nexus natural gas pipeline are upset because a federal agency seeking their comments is holding private sessions instead of town hall-style public meetings.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency that must approve the pipeline before it can go forward, has held five meetings in Ohio recently. A sixth meeting is tonight in Green. During those recent sessions, FERC officials talked to residents privately.

In previous pipeline-related meetings held by FERC and other agencies, the format was different. There was a presentation of facts and then the floor was opened to questions.

FERC is seeking comment from residents about a proposed $2 billion Nexus Company pipeline that could run from Kensington in eastern Ohio to a gas storage facility in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and then to Ontario. The proposed pipeline would run through Summit, Medina and Lorain counties. Many residents in Ohio oppose the pipeline.

"People expected it to be the same as previous hearings, like the FERC hearing last fall in Wadsworth," said Jon Strong, of Guilford Township, Medina County. Strong is co-founder of the Coalition to Reroute Nexus (CORN). "I think they should return to the public hearing style (meetings) so the public can hear what others have to say and learn from each other."

Tamara Young-Allen, spokesperson for FERC, said people seem to like the new method, which was put into place after complaints about the town hall format.

"Last year, we received many complaints from people who did not get a chance to speak," she said. "Even though we limit the time to three to five minutes. We wanted to maximize the process and came up with the idea to host one-on-one sessions with interested persons and a court reporter to get their comments."

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