Cadiz Farmer Luber To Be Boxed In by Pipelines

CADIZ – If having up to 75,000 barrels of ethane daily flowing through Mick Luber’s Harrison County farm via the Utopia Pipeline was not enough, the Cornerstone Pipeline will move as much as 180,000 barrels of natural gas liquids per day just down the road from his field.

“They just run over us. It is not right,” Luber said. “What if there is an accident at one of them? What am I supposed to do?”

The $250 million Cornerstone project is designed by MPLX, the spin-off of Marathon Petroleum Corp., which paid about $20 billion to acquire the MarkWest Energy processing company last year. The 16-inch diameter pipeline will carry light liquid hydrocarbons such as condensate and pentanes from the Harrison County processing facilities to the Marathon refinery near Canton, Ohio.

According to Marathon, this refinery handles “sweet and sour crude oils, including crude oil and condensate currently being produced from the Utica Shale.”

“All the right-of-way for the pipeline has been acquired and the trees were cleared by the March 30 deadline in order not to disturb the nesting habits of two species of endangered bats,” Marathon spokesman Sid Barth said. “Cornerstone construction will begin in May.”

“The Cornerstone Pipeline and associated Utica build-out projects will allow MPLX to provide transportation solutions from the Utica Shale to a wide range of markets,” MPLX President Pamela Beall added.

For Luber, the Cornerstone project is less than a mile down the road from his farm, where he’s already fighting the $500 million Kinder Morgan Utopia Pipeline, which would ship ethane to Michigan for export to Canada along the 240-mile route.

James Yskamp, Luber’s attorney, said Kinder Morgan contractors should not be able to force their way onto Luber’s land to build the pipeline because he does not believe the ethane is for a public use.

“They are disqualified as a public utility under Ohio Revised Code. If anything, these are byproducts of natural gas,” Yskamp said.

However, the order signed by Harrison County Common Pleas Judge T. Shawn Hervey states Kinder Morgan will be a “common carrier” because the company said it would allow 10 percent of the Utopia’s capacity to be “available to the public.”

“We don’t think they meet the definition of a common carrier. Not everyone can ship natural gas liquids,” Yskamp said.

Hervey, however, disagreed.

“The plaintiff (Kinder Morgan) must have access to survey of lands to construct (the) pipeline, which would constitute irreparable harm if denied,” the judge wrote.

Yskamp acknowledged Kinder Morgan officials have since indicated they found an alternate route to avoid Luber’s property. Nevertheless, they are now appealing the Harrison County decision to the Ohio Seventh District Court of Appeals, while Yskamp said they could take the matter all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, if necessary.

“Mick did not receive the type of due process he should have,” Yskamp said. “If Kinder Morgan moves the pipeline off his property, that is great. But they could move it back.”

Yskamp also said having so many pipelines, and their associated compressor stations, in the vicinity of an organic farm could create significant problems.

“The air pollution associated with these compressors is also a concern,” he added.