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DNR, Environmental Groups Concerned About Proposed Pipeline Underneath Ohio River

The fanshell mussel is one of five endangered species of mussels in the lower Ohio River. The Indiana DNR said endangered mussels could be harmed by the proposed pipeline. (Monte McGregor/USFWS)

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Sierra Club, and Citizens Action Coalition have concerns about a proposed natural gas pipeline that would run underneath the Ohio River. The pipeline would bring gas from other states to two small natural gas plants in southern Indiana that CenterPoint Energy intends to build.

In comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the DNR said pipeline construction could harm endangered species of mussels as well as the endangered Indiana bat and federally threatened Northern long-eared bat.

The company that wants to build the pipeline, Texas Gas Transmission LLC, said because the project will help CenterPoint move away from coal — the federal government doesn’t need to assess what effect it would have on the climate.

But Tony Mendoza, a staff attorney for the Sierra Club, said that’s not true because CenterPoint was going to retire its coal units whether the pipeline got built or not.

“What do we replace them with? Do we need more new polluting gas units or can we do an entirely new clean energy replacement like NIPSCO is doing?” he said.

The Sierra Club said the fact that the company plans to bring the plants online after it retires units at its A.B. Brown and Culley coal plants shows that it's not necessary to bring reliable energy to CenterPoint's customers. The utility has stated that the plants would supply energy at peak demand times

Mendoza said the natural gas plants and pipeline would harm the health of people in southern Indiana — an area already polluted by coal plants and industry.

“This is a region that has suffered a historic amount of pollution compared to other parts of the country. And so additional air, water and land pollution that's being proposed here should be very carefully scrutinized," he said.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission hasn’t approved CenterPoint’s request to build the natural gas plants yet. If it doesn’t, it’s not clear how the pipeline would be used.

Texas Gas Transmission LLC said in a statement it "has a decades-long track record of providing safe and quality service throughout the region."

"We are proud to be working on this project which will help with the transition to cleaner burning fuels for power generation in the area," the statement said. "We are taking all necessary steps and precautions to ensure minimal impact during both construction and our future operations in the area. The FERC will take into account all comments from stakeholders and landowners to produce the required NEPA documents as part of its process prior to issuing a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Texas Gas."

The DNR declined to be interviewed.

This story has been updated.

Contact reporter Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.

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