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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Guest Article: Natural Gas Infrastructure: A Boon to Any Ohio Farmer – Even Organic

Recently, an increasing number of natural gas pipeline projects have arisen in the state of Ohio. Understandably, farmers – particularly those running organic projects – have expressed concerns about the effects that these construction projects might have on their land and their agricultural endeavors. As president of the Ohio State Grange, a family farming organization dedicated to growing a healthy and vibrant agricultural supply, I sought to dispel some of these apprehensions.

In order to further explore infrastructure construction, the Ohio State Grange undertook a study of the economic effects of natural gas pipelines on agriculture, partnering with Charles Steele and Gary Wolfram, two economists at Hillsdale College. This study resulted in the publication of a white paper titled “Natural Gas Pipeline Infrastructure and Its Impact on Michigan and Ohio Agriculture.” Our findings might surprise some people. We determined that the construction of natural gas pipeline infrastructure will provide short- and long-term benefits for state and local economies by creating jobs, increasing tax revenues, and providing energy security. Farmers should not fear natural gas pipelines – rather, we should embrace these infrastructure projects and advocate for the many positive impacts that they stand to bring.

As any farmer will tell you, the agricultural industry is among the most energy-intensive in the country. Energy costs account for as much as 30 percent of total expenditures for many farmers. Increasingly volatile energy prices add a layer of complication to cost control for many agricultural producers. A steady supply of natural gas would alleviate many of these concerns – this plentiful domestic energy source, available in shale deposits in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, is both affordable and cost-effective. In the case of organic farms, where temperature and climate are essential, natural gas provides a clean, reliable source of heat and humidity control. That allows tomatoes to flourish within their greenhouses and cows to produce more milk on dairy farms.

However, our region suffers from a lack of infrastructure to transport these resources to market. One project, the Rover Pipeline, would fill that need. The natural gas pipeline will deliver gas from processing plants in West Virginia, Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania for delivery to the Midwest Hub near Defiance, Ohio, where the gas will be delivered for distribution to markets across the U.S.

Underground pipelines are the safest means of transporting natural gas. The Rover Pipeline will be buried under a minimum of 4 feet in agriculture and pasture lands, ensuring a minimal impact on farming operations. Further, construction plans call for the most advanced technological safety methods, including 24/7 monitoring, routine inspections, and emergency shutdown systems.

Rover is dedicated to working with farmers in order to maintain the ongoing success of their agricultural projects. One aspect in particular is the restoration of farm lands. The Rover project contracted Land Stewards, LLC to serve as an independent contractor throughout the construction project. These consultants will be assisting to restore areas affected by the construction process to preconstruction contours, to return soils to the proper areas, and ultimately address any other site-specific concerns that farmers may have. While organic farmers may be apprehensive about the specific soil make-up they have cultivated on their lands, Rover is committed to restoring these areas to pre-construction conditions.

Ultimately, this construction process will result in access to natural gas for farmers and other consumers throughout Ohio. As a farmer myself, I can attest to both the safety and the benefits of natural gas pipelines. A pipeline runs across my property, and I encountered no adverse effects during or after construction. Further, I am proud to use natural gas in my agricultural projects. Gas is a cleaner-burning, more environmentally friendly energy source than many other options. This fact will ensure that our organic farms are less prone to adverse effects from carbon emissions. Their products could even improve upon their ecologically-friendly status thanks to natural gas. Further, all our farms in Ohio remain viable for years to come.

For these reasons, farmers in Ohio should support pipeline infrastructure projects like Rover. We can all benefit from increased access to energy resources. The Rover Pipeline represents a major step forward in attaining this goal. Rover has assured farmers along the construction route that it will achieve this goal in a minimally invasive manner. I encourage the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to proceed with a timely review of the project so that the agricultural industry can begin to reap these benefits.

– Robert White, President, Ohio State Grange
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