As controversy swirls around a string of spills and air and water violations caused by Energy Transfer Partners' construction of the Rover gas pipeline, a study released Wednesday underlines another reason federal regulators should halt the project: It will fuel a massive increase in climate pollution.
A new analysis by Oil Change International finds that, if the Rover Pipeline is built, it will cause as much greenhouse gas pollution as 42 coal-fired power plants—some 145 million metric tons per year. The study slams the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for using chronically outdated assumptions to sweep this significant climate impact under the rug in its environmental review of the project.
FERC Announces Investigation into Energy Transfer's Rover Pipeline https://t.co/UXMT7urDua @KXLBlockade @TarSandsAction— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1496524208.0
"As the biggest new pipeline being built to carry fracked gas out of the Appalachian Basin, the Rover Pipeline is the biggest climate disaster of them all," said Lorne Stockman, senior research analyst at Oil Change International and the lead author of the study.
"After Trump's malicious pullout from the Paris climate accord, challenging each new pipeline is all the more important," he added. "While FERC remains in a state of denial, it's increasingly clear that gas pipelines are a bridge to climate destruction. They increase access to gas that we can't afford to burn and stall the transition to clean energy and efficiency solutions we need."
The climate findings bolster mounting calls for federal regulators to shut down all construction of the Rover Pipeline and revisit its permit decision by conducting a supplemental environmental review. The project would carry 3.25 billion cubic feet of gas per day from Pennsylvania and West Virginia through Ohio and Michigan, and link up to hubs that service export markets.
In early May, FERC ordered a partial stop of horizontal directional drilling activities in Ohio after Energy Transfer Partners—the same company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline—spilled millions of gallons of drilling waste into fragile wetlands. Ohio regulators have already fined the company for violations, which now exceed two dozen. Last week, FERC confirmed it is investigating the presence of toxic diesel fuel in the spilled waste. Michigan and Ohio groups have filed a formal motion urging FERC to reopen the permit case, and more than 100 organizations sent a letter urging the agency to do the same.
"The Rover pipeline is another disaster brought to you by Energy Transfer Partners," said Cheryl Johncox, fossil fuels organizer with the Sierra Club. "ETP has shown that they will use the most loathsome tactics to bully agencies and citizens to get what they want, destroying drinking water in the process. It is past time for regulatory agencies to shut the project down."
Wednesday's study calls on FERC to conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement for the Rover Pipeline that includes a credible analysis of the project's lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impact, along with a thorough examination of the safety hazards of horizontal drilling techniques being used to construct the pipeline.
"Energy Transfer Partners threatens the very air we breathe and the waters we drink," said Elaine Tanner, organizer with the Ohio River Citizens' Alliance. "Day after day, the company gets away with dumping their slop and their slurry onto our wetlands, flowing into our rivers and streams. These construction techniques are obviously not working, yet the pipeline continues to grow across four states. We are fighting for survival here and the gas has not yet begun to flow."
Laura Burns, Ohio organizer with Moms Clean Air Force, agrees. "It is important that we understand the actions we take now will impact our children for years to come," she said. "What kind of a legacy do we leave for them when we ignore the march of climate-destroying infrastructure across our state?"
The Rover study is the fourth in a series of briefings by Oil Change International calculating the full climate impact of gas pipelines proposed in the Appalachian Basin. In total, the briefings show FERC has dismissed the pollution equivalent of more than 100 coal-fired power plants in reviewing the Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley, PennEast and Rover projects alone.
The analyses show that FERC habitually ignores the impact of methane leakage, which makes reliance on gas for electricity as dirty as coal, and ignores the economic reality that gas increasingly displaces clean energy, not coal. In contrast to FERC, Oil Change International's methodology reflects the evolving analysis of methane leakage and fully adds up the lifecycle greenhouse gas pollution from gas fracking and processing, pipeline operation, gas combustion at power plants and methane leaked across the gas supply chain.
Community activists and organizations sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Wednesday, signed by 118 groups, demanding the agency halt all construction of the Rover gas pipeline and embark upon an extensive review of its approval policies.
The letter, signed by groups along the Rover pipeline route in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan as well as across the country, comes on the heels of massive construction accidents and spills by Energy Transfer Partners as it began construction of the fracked gas pipeline in recent weeks. Already, Energy Transfer Partners has been fined by the state of Ohio and FERC has taken action to pause a portion of their construction activities.
Feds Halt New Drilling on Rover Pipeline After Massive Spills Destroy Ohio Wetlands https://t.co/myayIKZ3QI (@ecowatch)— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1494599011.0
"In just the first few weeks of building the Rover pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners has shown themselves to be simply reckless in their construction practices. But just as importantly, they've exposed glaring flaws in FERC's approval processes for pipelines like Rover," said David Turnbull, campaigns director with Oil Change International.
"FERC needs to take immediate action not only to protect people and ecosystems along the Rover pipeline route from Energy Transfer Partners' reckless ways, but to improve their own processes to ensure this never happens again."
The letter has been endorsed by community-based groups in the states impacted by Rover, like the Ohio River Citizens' Alliance, FreshWater Accountability Project, Buckeye Environmental Network, and Sierra Club Ohio Chapter, along with national groups like Oil Change International, Earthworks, Greenpeace USA, and the Sierra Club. It calls upon FERC to take two discrete actions:
First, the groups demand that FERC halt all construction of the Rover pipeline, with the only exception being any activity necessary to ensure the structural integrity of construction to date. This construction should be halted so that the environmental impact statement can be re-opened to reassess the risks the pipeline construction imposes.
Second, the groups demand that FERC initiate an immediate review of horizontal directional drilling plans and procedures on all open pipeline dockets under their jurisdiction, halting all new approvals of projects while the review takes place.
"Ohioans have a very close connection to the waters of our state, with Lake Erie to the north and the Ohio River in the south," said Cheryl Johncox, dirty fuels organizer in Ohio with the Sierra Club.
"We don't take kindly to big oil and gas coming in here and trashing our state. We will fight with everything we have to protect our water and our communities."
The letter will be sent electronically and delivered in person to the FERC headquarters in Washington, DC.
"The twin Rover pipelines have torn a path across our lands, stepping on property rights and placing added burdens on our communities," said Elaine Tanner, an organizer with the Ohio River Citizens' Alliance.
"We must think before placing our future in the hands of corporations willing to leave our people behind as collateral damage."
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
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And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
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Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
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Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
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Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.