As reported by EcoWatch, the construction of Energy Transfer Partners’ new Rover Pipeline through Ohio only began mid-February but the project has already resulted in 18 incidents involving mud spills from drilling, stormwater pollution and open burning that violated the U.S. Clean Air Act.
The Dallas-based company, which is also the operator of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, has been fined $431,000 by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for water and air pollution violations across various sites in Ohio.
As The Columbus Dispatch reported, the incidents occurred from late March up to Monday’s 200-gallon release of mud in Harrison County. The largest discharge leaked millions of gallons of bentonite mud, a drilling lubricant, into a protected wetland in April.
Notably, Craig Butler, the Ohio EPA director, told The Washington Post that the largest spill could reach 5 million gallons, much higher than the original 2 million gallon estimate.
An Energy Transfer Partners spokesman responded, “We have no idea where they came up with those figures.”
Butler told The Post that two of the spills affected drinking water supplies and that two municipalities needed to adjust their filtration systems to protect drinking water.
As far as Energy Transfer’s response, Butler said the company has been “dismissive,” “exceptionally disappointing” and unlike any other response he has seen. According to Butler, the company claimed that the state EPA lacks the authority to interfere with the Rover project.
Butler said he arranged a meeting with Energy Transfer Partners executives to say “how upset Ohio was” and to arrange new response plans. However, the company said it would continue to operate and has not yet paid any of its fines.
An Energy Transfer spokeswoman told The Columbus Dispatch that the “small number of inadvertent releases of ‘drilling mud’ during horizontal drilling in Ohio … is not an unusual occurrence when executing directional drilling operations and is all permitted activity by (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).”
“We do not believe that there will be any impact to the environment,” she said, adding that the company is managing the Rover Pipeline situation in accordance with its federal- and state-approved contingency plan.
Ohio EPA officials contacted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for an analysis of the project. Butler said the state EPA is also examining other legal options.
The finished 713-mile pipeline will carry fracked gas across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and Canada, and crosses three major rivers, the Maumee, Sandusky and Portage, all of which feed into Lake Erie. The pipeline is designed to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of domestically produced natural gas per day.