Feds Halt New Drilling on Rover Pipeline After Massive Spills Destroy Ohio Wetlands
The decision was made just days after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) slapped parent company Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) with a $431,000 fine over numerous water and air pollution violations along the route of the $4.2 billion project. ETP is the same company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which also happened to leak 84 gallons of oil in South Dakota early last month.
Terry Turpin, director of FERC's Office of Energy Projects, said in a Wednesday letter to the developer that FERC staff has "serious concerns" about the sizable spill, its environmental impacts and the "lack of clarity regarding the underlying reasons for its occurrence, and the possibility of future problems."
The two spills of betonite mud were discovered April 13 and 14 in Stark and Richland County wetlands and was caused by pressure during drilling that allowed mud to rise to the surface, the Ohio EPA said.
Although the mud is nontoxic, officials worry that it could smother wildlife, plants and affect the wetlands' water chemistry.
ETP cannot conduct any new horizontal directional drilling activities until it complies with certain measures to help prevent spills, the FERC letter said.
"The action taken Wednesday by FERC is a step in the right direction," Ohio EPA spokesman James Lee told NBC News.
According to S&P Global Platts, FERC's order affects horizontal directional drilling in eight out of 30 drilling areas associated with the project. The regulators have also required Rover to obtain independent third-party consultants to study the company's drilling plans.
The drilling ban will remain in place until FERC authorizes it to start again. The company can still finish drilling activities it already started or other non-drilling construction work.
"We have received the letter from the FERC. We continue to work with them and the [Ohio Environmental Protection Agency] on a resolution to this matter," Alexis Daniel, Energy Transfer Partners spokeswoman, told Platts.
But Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler told acting FERC chairman Cheryl LaFleur that Rover has "taken the position that Ohio has no authority to enforce violations of its federally delegated state water pollution control statutes, water quality standards or air pollution control statutes ... Ohio EPA strongly disagrees with Rover's position."
The finished 713-mile Rover 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.
ETP said the pipeline will enter service in two phases in July and November.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.