Type: Law Bulletins
Date: 05/26/2017

FERC Stops New Horizontal Drilling on Ohio Pipeline After Wetlands Spill

On May 10, FERC ordered Rover Pipeline LLC to not conduct any new horizontal directional drilling (“HDD”) in construction of its Rover pipeline after the company spilled nearly two million gallons of bentonite drilling fluid into an Ohio wetland. The pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners (which also owns the Dakota Access pipeline), will be over 700-miles long and service markets in the Midwest, East Coast and Canada.

The company notified both the Ohio EPA and FERC of the spill in mid-April, which coated soils and vegetation over a 6.5-acre area. The spill occurred in a state-designated Category 3 wetland, a wetland that is considered pristine and a superior habitat for wildlife. The spill occurred when the company attempted to drill beneath the Tuscarawas River so that the pipeline can pass beneath the river. The bentonite, comprised of mostly clay and water, is used as a drilling lubricant and is returned to the surface for collection after use.

According to FERC, however, the returning bentonite was absent or intermittent throughout the majority of the HDD activity, a period of nearly three weeks. Based on the size of the spill and Rover’s lack of action when the bentonite returns were absent, FERC is requiring Rover to conduct a third-party review of the incident to determine whether Rover’s actions were consistent with the conditions in its FERC certificate. Until this review is completed, Rover may not conduct any new HDD activity along the pipeline. Additionally, FERC required Rover to double the number of environmental inspectors along the pipeline’s construction right-of-way to ensure compliance.

FERC’s order comes on the heels of an Ohio EPA proposed order for Rover to prepare a wetland restoration plan and pay a $431,000 penalty for the spill and other violations that Rover allegedly committed during pipeline construction across the state. The other violations include several other bentonite spills, stormwater violations and an open burning violation. However, Rover responded that it is in compliance with its federal permits and that the state does not have the authority to seek such a penalty. Despite the FERC and Ohio EPA orders, Energy Transfer Partners does not anticipate any delays in completion of the pipeline.

A copy of the Ohio EPA proposed order may be found here.  

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