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FERC Again Orders Drilling Halt on Rover Pipeline Site After Another Spill

Energy

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has again ordered Energy Transfer Partners to halt horizontal directional drilling under the Tuscarawas River in Ohio at its troubled Rover pipeline project pending additional review.

The move came after Ohio regulators requested FERC order a cease of all drilling on the project after nearly 150,000 gallons of drilling fluids were lost down the pilot hole for the pipeline earlier this month.


"While our understanding is that no fluid has reached the surface, and no impacts on sensitive resources have been documented, the difficult geology at the crossing warrants investigation into other approaches prior to advancing the [horizontal directional drilling] pilot drill as well as before subsequent reaming passes," FERC Director of Energy Projects Terry Turpin wrote in a letter.

The spill occurred at the same site as a spill last April of 2 million gallons of drilling fluid. That incident also led FERC to temporarily ban Energy Transfer Partners from new horizontal drilling.

The 713-mile pipeline project, which will carry fracked gas across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and Canada once complete, is currently under construction by the same Dallas-based company that built the controversial Dakota Access pipeline.

In September, Energy Transfer Partners was fined $2.3 million for numerous water and air pollution violations across Ohio. Over the last two years, the Rover pipeline has racked up more "noncompliance incidents" than any other interstate gas pipeline.

According to Reuters, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has already asked FERC a few times in January to stop Energy Transfer Partners from drilling under the Tuscarawas River.

While operations are currently halted at the site, the company is seeking approval from FERC on a plan submitted on Jan. 22 to continue horizontal drilling.

But the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency countered on Tuesday that the plan "only provides temporary solutions and only suggests ways Rover may minimize expected losses if allowed to proceed. For this reason alone, Ohio cannot support the plan."

The Ohio EPA wants FERC to require Energy Transfer Partners to abandon the current installation.

But the company is more than 99 percent complete with total project construction and plans to finish Rover by the end of the first quarter.

"We have ceased operations at the Tuscarawas site. However, we are continuing our construction activities at all other locations," Alexis Daniel, a spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners, told Reuters.

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Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

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"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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