CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The fight to stop Duke Energy from putting in a new natural gas pipeline is not over, because although the project was approved, state officials are now getting more time to consider the arguments against it.
The Ohio Power Siting Board approved the pipeline in November. In December, NOPE, or “Neighbors Opposing Pipeline Extension,” alongside officials in Blue Ash, Cincinnati, Evendale, Reading and Hamilton County, filed applications for a “rehearing.”
They are arguing that the board did not consider all of the evidence fairly and so more should be done.
“There’s been a lot of pipeline explosions," NOPE spokesperson Jared Newman said. "This is a very invasive solution for what is basically a small amount of additional energy.”
Duke reps fought back with a rebuttal, saying the board made the right decision.
“We 100 percent are confident that we can construct and operate this pipeline safely and responsibly," Duke spokesperson Sally Thelan said.
The board’s administrative law judge just made a ruling on the rehearing, stating that the members of the siting board should have more time to look over all of the evidence.
“It’s part of the process and working through it," Thelan said. "It does not mean there will be a new evidentiary hearing or starting back at square one.”
That evidence includes information from Duke Energy reps, who say the pipeline is necessary and safe, and information from those who are against it, claiming it is dangerous and not needed.
“We are encouraged because my understanding is that a lot of times with these cases, they just end once the decision is made, so the fact that the law judge has given the board more time is nice to hear," Newman said.
For now, there is no clear timeline for what is next. Both sides are waiting to see if the board stands by its original decision or if something changes.
Duke says said they are not worried because this is not an unusual situation.
“The bottom line is that we believe that making sure that we’re able to retire some of our aging infrastructures, getting newer technology and pipelines in the ground is the right thing to do," Thelan said.
However, pipeline opponents believe it is a good sign.
“We can continue to fight this until the end, and that’s what we’re going to keep doing,” Newman said.
Duke reps believe the board will stand by the approval of the project. If that happens, construction on the pipeline is slated to start in late 2020 and wrap up in 2021.
Opponents are hoping there is still a chance the project will be shut down.
You can read more about Duke Energy’s take on the project on Duke’s website.
To learn more about NOPE’s opposition to the pipeline, visit NOPE’s website.