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.
In less than one week, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke will submit his final recommendations to President Trump on whether 27 national monuments around the country should be downsized, eliminated, transferred to state control or left alone.
But as Aaron Weiss, the media director of the conservation group Center for Western Priorities, pointed out: "Rather than spending his final week hearing from local communities who have worked tirelessly to protect their natural and cultural heritage as national monuments, Secretary Zinke is on vacation in the Mediterranean. His wife, Lola Zinke, tweeted a picture early this morning of herself and Secretary Zinke enjoying a sunrise on the Bosphorus Strait."
Energy Transfer Partners' controversial $4.3 billion Rover pipeline has more negative inspection reports than any other major interstate natural gas pipeline built in the last two years, according to a new Bloomberg analysis.
The 713-mile pipeline, which will carry fracked gas across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan and Canada, has been stalled from numerous environmental violations, including a 2 million gallon drilling fluid spill into an Ohio wetland in April.
'A Major Win for New Yorkers': Court of Appeals Upholds State's Denial of Water Quality Certification for Constitution Pipeline
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld New York State's denial of a water quality certification for the Constitution Pipeline Friday, a critical win for the Attorney General's office and the state's authority to take necessary action to protect its waters and natural resources. The appeals court noted that the state is entitled to "conduct its own review of the Constitution Project's likely effects on New York waterbodies and whether those effects would comply with the state's water quality standards."
New York must be able to do what's necessary to protect our environment—and we're glad that the court agreed.
By Anne Bolen
On Aug. 21, for the first time since 1918, a total solar eclipse will cross the U.S. from coast to coast. Along the path of totality, the moon will completely block out the sun, turning day to twilight for nearly three minutes. While a partial eclipse will be visible throughout the U.S., millions will be flocking to spots along the path of totality, which begins in Salem on Oregon's coast about 10:15 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time and exits the nation at Charleston, South Carolina, where maximum coverage will occur about 2:47 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Perhaps no other natural event will inspire so many people to go outdoors.
The Trump administration released an environmental review Thursday of Hilcorp Alaska's Arctic offshore drilling development. Hilcorp plans to build a 9-acre artificial island and 5.6-mile pipeline in the Beaufort Sea for its offshore drilling project. The Trump administration's draft environmental impact statement proposes to greenlight the dangerous drilling plan, which would be a first for federal waters in the Arctic.
The incident was detailed in several Facebook posts from Equinac, a Spanish marine wildlife conservation group.
The National Park Service (NPS) announced Wednesday that it has rescinded the 2011 "Water Bottle Ban" that allowed parks to prohibit the sale of disposable plastic water bottles. That same day, news emerged that the Trump administration removed a nine-slot Capital Bikeshare station at the White House that was requested and installed during the Obama years and used by staffers.
By Catherine Collentine
This week, a federal court ruled that the Obama administration over-penalized Exxon for dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of a pollutant onto the streets of Mayflower and threw out a number of safety violations levied against Exxon on the basis that the company met its legal obligations to consider the risks associated with the pipeline.