Cincinnati, Hamilton County leaders call on Duke Energy to 'cease and desist' in pipeline battle

Posted at 5:29 PM, Jun 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-12 17:31:46-04

CINCINNATI -- A city leader and county leader have accused Duke Energy of using intimidation tactics to push through a natural gas pipeline.

Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune called Duke a good corporate citizen but said Monday the company's recent behavior was "alarming."

According to Portune, some people reported Duke workers came to their property and asked them to sign away their rights.

A high-pressure pipeline, proposed to run through eastern Hamilton County, is at the center of the controversy. Duke has maintained the new pipeline is essential, and that it would be operated safely. It will replace one that has been in use since the 1950s and is reaching the end of its usable life, according to the company.

The utility giant already operates more than 14,000 miles of natural gas pipelines, including 250 miles of high-pressure pipelines, in Ohio and Kentucky, spokeswoman Sally Thelen said.

But a group calling themselves NOPE, or Neighbors Opposing Pipeline Extension, has pushed back. Duke revised its plans, reducing the pipeline's size and offering a new set of proposed routes. Still, opponents aren't swayed.

Portune and Sittenfeld want Duke to "cease and desist" from having its workers enter private property. Thelen said, at this point, Duke isn't asking property owners to sign anything.

"It's not any sort of an easement discussion," she said. "It's literally us doing a lot of pre-engineering work, survey work."

Portune and Sittenfeld's news conference Monday was something of a preemptive strike before the state's decision-making body, the Ohio Power Siting Board, meets Thursday from 3 to 8 p.m. at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash. Duke won't speak during the meeting but will have experts in a side room to answer questions.

Many people, including Portune and Sittenfeld, have said they fear the pipeline would be a danger in such a densely populated area, with churches, schools and homes nearby.

Thelen said 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.