The Ohio Power Siting Board Thursday approved Duke Energy's request for a natural gas pipeline in Hamilton County.
The board approved the Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the Central Corridor Pipeline Extension's alternative plan.
The alternative plan proposes running the nearly 13-mile, 20-inch diameter pipeline from Blue Ash to just south of Golf Manor along a route that primarily follows Reading Road, passing through Amberley Village, Cincinnati, Evendale, Reading and Sharonville as well as Blue Ash and Golf Manor.
You can see the exact route in the diagram below.
Sam Randazzo, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the siting board, thanked everyone who provided input and testimony during the multi-year decision process. He said the board received more than 1,600 public comments and heard testimony from 115 people.
"That input is important and I will tell you that it allowed us to frame conditions that have been attached to this certificate in ways that we think are better responsive to the statutory responsibilities that are set forth in the Ohio Revised Code."
The board included 41 conditions with which Duke must comply.
"Among these conditions, Duke Energy must notify and schedule consultations with all affected local jurisdictions prior to the start of construction," the board states in a release. "Duke Energy will construct the pipeline in accordance with transmission line standards, rather than less stringent distribution line standards, and must meet or exceed the requirements of all applicable pipeline safety regulations."
Spokeswoman Sally Thelen says Duke is pleased with the board's decision.
"We certainly are humbled to know that we 100% will be engaging communities that will be affected along the route to ensure that we're meeting the qualifications prior to getting in there and starting the construction," Thelen says. "We know that we need to work closely with our communities and neighbors that are along the route in order to make sure that the construction process can be as smooth as possible."
Neighbors in communities along the chosen route and Duke's preferred route have been vocal in their opposition, holding meetings and rallying to fight the plan. They cite concerns about the safety of natural gas pipelines.
"We're obviously disappointed," NOPE Cincy member Jared Newman tells WVXU. "We still believe that this pipeline is not necessary; that Duke has not proven the need for it. We think there are less intrusive ways to meet the area's energy needs."
Newman says the group is considering whether it will attempt to appeal the board's decision.
Thelen expects to begin construction in Fall 2020, with work lasting 14-16 months. The project's timeline says complete restoration would be finished by Spring 2022.
Duke Energy says the pipeline is needed in order to retire aging and propane air peaking facilities used on the coldest days of the year to supplement and meet increased demand on the system. Thelen says current propane caverns used to operate the peaking facilities are not fixable should they fail.
"In the event we were to lose a propane peaking facility, we would very much be in danger of not being able to meet the load on those super cold days," Thelen says.
Initial plans for the pipeline were put on hold in 2016 when neighbors objected.