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Duke Energy gets Supreme Court go-ahead for 12-mile pipeline

WCPO blue ash.png
Posted at 7:01 PM, Sep 22, 2021

Some Greater Cincinnati residents took on a major corporation and lost Wednesday after more than a year of waiting.

The Ohio Supreme Court approved Duke Energy’s Central Corridor Pipeline.

Critics argued it would be unsafe and too close to homes, and the state approval process was flawed.

Duke Energy and the Ohio Power Siting Board argued against that. Ultimately, the judges ruled in their favor.

"We affirm the board’s order granting Duke a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need to construct, operate, and maintain a natural-gas pipeline," they wrote in their decision.

How we got here

In 2016, Duke Energy notified the Ohio Power Siting Board that it would be applying to install at least 12 miles of natural gas line from Sycamore Township through Evendale, Reading and into Golf Manor.

Spokesperson Sally Thelen said the goal is to improve service to customers and update an aging system.

“We’ve done a lot of due diligence on this and certainly believe that it’s something that is critical for operating system on the natural gas side here,” Thelen said. “It’s critical for us to be able to retire infrastructure that needs to be ultimately retired or replaced in some instances.”

A group called Neighbors Opposing Pipeline Extension, the City of Reading, the City of Blue Ash and the Village of Evendale argued it was too close to homes. Reading’s team said the Ohio Power Siting Board violated its policies when approving an alternate route for the project.

They filed an appeal in November 2019, asking the Ohio Supreme Court to stop the project and decide if it should receive approval.

Judges allowed construction to begin in March while deciding.

“Once they gave them the go-ahead while this was going on, we knew where it was going,” said Reading safety service director Patrick Ross.

The judges' Wednesday ruling said even if policies were violated, no one was harmed and the project was approved.

"I concur in the judgment of the majority and fully join the majority opinion," Justice Sharon Kennedy wrote. "However, I write separately to address appellee Ohio Power Siting Board’s failure to comply with its own administrative rules, as argued by appellants the city of Reading and its safety-service director, Patrick Ross ('Reading'), and the city manager for the city of Blue Ash, David Waltz ('Blue Ash'). An administrative agency owes a duty to the citizens of Ohio to consistently comply with its own rules and procedures. In this matter, the board unquestionably did not comply with its rules and thereby failed in its duty to the public."

Mayor of Evendale Richard Finan told WCPO the decision is no surprise after the court refused the restraining order.

"The OPSB is pleased the court affirmed its ruling,” wrote Matt Schilling with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

He has not responded to questions about accusations of policy violations.

Living next to the work

WCPO checked with residents living next to the construction to find out what it's like.

“The traffic, you know, is a big thing. Of course, the dust and the dirt,” said Von Rogers.

He has lived next to a stretch of the work in Blue Ash near Summit Park for six months.

“They do a pretty good job of trying, I think, to keep it down," Rogers said. "But, when you're running equipment like this, I mean, our windows and the dust in our house, you can't do anything much about it."

Duke meets weekly with city leaders where construction is happening to prepare for closures. It provides signs to businesses to help inform customers that they are open.

“I just can’t say enough about the cooperation and absolute teamwork we've done with local officials and with homeowners and business owners,” said Thelen.

Thelen says you will get a letter in the mail 30 days before Duke starts digging outside your home. It is providing placards for your car so workers can identify you if you live in the middle of a road closure and get you home faster.

Construction is slated to be done by the end of 2021. Final restoration begins Spring 2022.