Duke pipeline opponents still won't budge

Posted at 12:37 AM, Jun 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-16 11:39:33-04

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated none of the Duke Energy board members attended Thursday's meeting. This story has been updated to reflect that none of the appointed Ohio Power Siting Board members attended Thursday's meeting.

BLUE ASH, Ohio -- The latest battle in the hard-fought war over a proposed Duke Energy pipeline was fought Thursday night in Blue Ash, when around 100 Reading, Ohio residents testified in opposition to Duke's project in front of a court reporter.

"This is a really used area; a lot of kids use this area," Bess Sturgill, who lent her voice to the effort, said. "And I'm just like, 'Oh my gosh, why put all these people in danger?'"

The high-pressure natural gas pipeline would, if constructed, split Reading north to south. Citizens opposed to its construction, such as Sturgill, hang their concerns on the belief that the pipeline could explode and endanger people who live nearby.

Even Reading Mayor Robert Bemmes threw his weight behind the protesters.

"No one with any respect for life or property value would walk or ride this route and recommend it," he said. 

Duke Energy claims it is essential to expanding service and will be safe for people in the area; Charles Wiedenmann believes it.

"There's nothing wrong with new technology," he said. "There's nothing wrong with doing this. If you wait years, if you don't build it, that type of thing, who's going to be standing up in that room and saying, 'Gee, look at the hundreds of thousands of people that are upset because of lack of supply?'"

As the company continues to search for a community that will accept its project, Cincinnati City Council member P.G. Sittenfeld and Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portunehave accused it of using "alarming" intimidation tactics to strong-arm people who live along the route.

Spokeswoman Sally Thelen said June 12 pipeline opponents' language is "meant to stir up emotion."

"We have that infrastructure in place -- in larger diameter, higher-pressure pipeline -- that goes along a university, a hospital, in a densely populated neighborhood, near a shopping mall. It's not any type of infrastructure that we're not already comfortable constructing and operating safely," she said.

None of the appointed Ohio Power Siting Board members attended Thursday night's meeting. The company hopes to start construction on the pipeline in 2018; opponents have planned another discussion in Columbus during July.