Natural gas is an increasingly vital U.S. energy source that is presently being tapped and transported across state and international boundaries. Controversy engulfs natural gas, from the hydraulic fracturing process used to liberate it from massive, gas-laden Appalachian shale deposits, to the permitting and construction of new interstate pipelines bringing it to markets. This case explores the controversy flowing from the proposed 256-mile-long interstate Nexus pipeline transecting northern Ohio, southeastern Michigan and terminating at the Dawn Hub in Ontario, Canada. As the lead agency regulating and permitting interstate pipelines, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is also tasked with mitigating environmental risks through the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act's Environmental Impact Statement process. Pipeline opponents assert that a captured federal agency ignores public and scientific input, inadequately addresses public health and safety risks, preempts local control, and wields eminent domain powers at the expense of landowners, cities, and everyone in the pipeline path. Proponents counter that pipelines are the safest means of transporting domestically abundant, cleaner burning, affordable gas to markets that will boost local and regional economies and serve the public good. Debates over what constitutes the public good are only one set in a long list of contentious issues including pipeline safety, proposed routes, property rights, public voice, and questions over the scientific and democratic validity of the Environmental Impact Statement process. The Nexus pipeline provides a sobering example that simple energy policy solutions and compromise are elusive—effectively fueling greater conflict as the natural gas industry booms.

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