NewsMetro Detroit NewsInvestigations


Fear of Nexus Pipeline grows as construction on the project nears completion

Posted at 7:41 PM, Mar 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-22 11:09:57-04

DTE Energy and Spectra Energy received federal approval for the Nexus Pipeline from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year.  

The work installing the $2 billion dollar pipeline has been going on all winter in several locations.  

It will carry fracked natural gas from southeast Ohio to Michigan, through Lenawee, Monroe and Washtenaw Counties and also supply Ontario, Canada.

Landowner Kathy Schoen was one of the people who fought it from the beginning 4 years ago. Even if catastrophes are averted, perhaps she has the most to lose.  

She grew up on the family farm with 46 acres. So did her parents, and their parents. It is one of the few centennial farms still owned by the same family.  

Her great-grandparents bought the farm in the 1880s.

She can’t say what she was paid by Nexus to go through her land. And pipeline officials declined an on camera interview but say right of way and eminent domain payments are confidential.

Lincoln Schools in Washtenaw County have 3 buildings in the line of fire, 1,100 feet of the pipeline. Two years ago the Superintendent told us safety was a concern.  

Sean McNatt says now in an email, “My level of comfort is irrelevant. The pipeline is coming through our community. Parents are concerned."

The Nexus Pipeline is due to be finished and in operation later this year.

We posed several questions to Nexus. They are answered below.  

The company also gave us this statement:

The NEXUS pipeline will transport ready-to-use natural gas to Ohio, Michigan and Ontario. NEXUS has been working with landowners along the route since August 2014 and the project has reached mutual agreements with 100% of Michigan landowners. NEXUS will provide substantial benefits to Michigan natural gas consumers. According to an independent study, Michigan consumers will save approximately $2 billion over the first 20 years that NEXUS is in service. The project will be designed, constructed and operated safely and in strict compliance with all applicable state and federal regulations.

Here are our questions and their answers:

Did you make cash donations to Lincoln Schools in Washtenaw County?

We are proud to support science, technology, engineering and math programing at Lincoln Consolidated Schools by awarding a $12,500 grant.  In addition, we have partnered with the school to award a $10,000 grant for new band uniforms and will match up to an additional $10,000 raised by the school community.  These needs were identified during our ongoing communications with the school and local community and are part of more than $275,000 provided to support education and workforce development initiatives along the route in Michigan and Ohio.

What is the diameter of the underground pipeline?  Is it the same for the entire route?

  • 36” diameter high strength carbon steel will be used for the entire route.
  • This is ready-to-use natural gas. The same quality and kind of natural gas that is used to heat homes and businesses and power stovetops in residential kitchens.

How far underground will it be? 

The pipeline will be installed in accordance with federal pipeline safety regulations pertaining to depth of cover, generally this means that the pipeline will be installed a minimum 3’ below ground.

Is that depth consistent?  If not, how much will it vary?

Minimum 3’. Often deeper depending on location such as crossings at roads, rivers, or agricultural areas.

Will any parts of the pipeline be above ground in Michigan?

The pipeline will be below ground. A small number of facilities such as valves and metering stations will be above ground. 

Is the pipeline running under the Huron River east of Ford Lake and the Ford dam in Ypsilanti Township?

The pipeline was installed below the Huron River earlier this year.

How far under the river will it be?

Approximately 40 feet below the bottom of the Huron River

Will the pipeline run under I-94 north of Ford Lake?

The pipeline was installed under I-94 earlier this year.

How far under the freeway will it be?

Approximately 50 feet below the interstate

I am told crew working on Tuttlehill Road, north of Willis Road hit another natural gas line underground on or about February 3rd. Is this correct? 

What did this do to delay construction? What was the remedy for this? I am told this was fixed on February 14. Is this correct? How did this happen? Was the crew now aware of this other underground pipeline? Did it leak?

  • During construction the NEXUS contractor made contact with a small diameter, unmarked third party gas line.
  • There was no release of natural gas or interruption of service, and repairs to the line were made promptly.
  • There was no impact to the NEXUS construction schedule.  

Will the natural gas that flows through Nexus have the "rotten egg" smell through the entire route? Or will this be allowed to be eliminated during a certain part of the route into Metro Detroit?

With respect to over 245 miles of the 256-mile NEXUS project, federal pipeline safety regulations do not specify that the natural gas transmitted through the pipeline be odorized. Odorization generally occurs at the utility company.

NEXUS has applied to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for a special permit allowing it to employ enhanced design and monitoring measures in lieu of odorization for this ten mile segment. This includes design, material (such as thicker pipeline wall thickness), construction, operations and maintenance requirements.

Further information regarding NEXUS’ special permit application can be found at

Adam you said to me in your email, “NEXUS has obtained all necessary authorizations and permits for construction and has reached easement agreements with and has compensated 100% of all landowners along the route in Michigan.”

Are all landowners paid? Are their amounts similar? Are they required to keep their amounts confidential? 

NEXUS reached mutual easement agreements with and has compensated 100% of all landowners along the route in Michigan based on terms that each landowner negotiated in their individual agreements with the project.

The amount of compensation varies depending on the size of the easement and other factors. 

All landowners were compensated at or above fair market value which was determined by a third party appraiser.

Beyond that, NEXUS does not comment on the details of its negotiations and agreements with individual landowners.

How many landowners in Michigan fought this and you were still able to build through imminent domain?

NEXUS reached mutual agreements with all landowners in Michigan.

How much natural gas will flow through Nexus when it is operating? Is it 1.5 Billion cubic feet per day?

The Nexus pipeline is designed to transport up to 1.5 bcf/day to markets in Ohio, Michigan and Ontario.

How will it be monitored 24/7/365?

To ensure that our pipeline remains in safe and reliable operating condition, we employ a number of redundant, overlapping layers of protection – from high-tech monitoring at our gas control centers to remote controlled shut off valves, to routine foot patrols of the pipeline right of way.

Our pipeline will be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week by our centralized high-tech Gas Control center to ensure continuous, safe and reliable operations. Gas Control will continuously monitor the pressure, flow and temperature of natural gas throughout our pipeline so that we always know what is happening along our system at all times. Gas Control monitors and reacts to equipment anomalies and, when necessary, dispatches employees who live and work along the pipeline to respond.

Has Nexus made donations to the Lincoln Schools in Ypsilanti Township? What are they and why? Have you made other community donations in Michigan? If so, what are they?

We are proud to partner with Lincoln High School to fulfill a community grant request that was made to the project.

As a part of our stakeholder engagement efforts, NEXUS partners with communities located along the pipeline route in Ohio and Michigan to support programs in education, workforce development, community vitality and environmental stewardship.

We value the vital role Lincoln Consolidated Schools plays in educating Michigan’s next generation of engineers, scientists and mathematicians.

An example of another community grant donation in Michigan can be found here:

Will you have any discussions about safety measures and protocol for the schools, students, parents and residents before the pipeline goes into service?

Nexus began reaching out to communities along the route in August 2014. Through more than 30 public meetings and thousands of public comments, the project team developed a balanced approach to designing, constructing and operating the pipeline. 

NEXUS is committed to giving landowners and interested citizens accurate and timely information about the project.

In addition to the many ways we already communicate with the public, we will continue to provide information regarding the project through our pipeline safety and public awareness programs.

We work closely with local Police and Fire Officials including training and safety procedures.

I read where Oberlin, Ohio may be reaching a settlement of $100,000 for Nexus to be able to build in that area. Has that settlement been completed? 

No, a settlement has not been reached with Oberlin.

Can you list settlements made with communities and entities in Michigan?

NEXUS has reached mutual agreements with all municipalities and local government entities throughout its route in Michigan.

How will the natural gas be used from this pipeline in Michigan? How much of this will go beyond Michigan into Canada?

In Michigan, the incremental pipeline capacity provided by NEXUS will have substantial benefits to both DTE Gas customers and to Michigan natural gas consumers as a whole.

According to a study conducted by ICF, the savings to Michigan consumers are approximately $2 billion over the first 20 years that NEXUS is in service.

The NEXUS project will ensure Michigan residents, manufacturers, farmers and electricity generators have reliable access to low-cost, domestically produced natural gas supplies.

NEXUS gas supply will support the transition to a cleaner environment as Michigan's utilities have announced plans to transition from coal to renewables and natural gas fired generation of electricity.

In addition, NEXUS will serve and benefit customers in Michigan, Ohio and Ontario.