Rover Pipeline

File. The dual 42-inch pipeline would run through five townships in Wood County: Henry, Bloom, Milton, Jackson and Perry townships. The course of the pipeline has it crossing the Slippery Elm Trail. 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Wednesday issued a letter prohibiting Energy Transfer from conducting any new drilling activities on the Rover pipeline project in Ohio until the firm complies with new measures.

The pipeline is scheduled to cross five townships in Wood County.

The project has run afoul of Ohio Environmental Protection Agency standards, with eight incidents tied to the project violating state law, according to the Ohio EPA. The agency says other actions by the company are under review. 

About 2 million gallons of drilling fluid was released into a Stark County wetland in April, which prompted FERC to put the brakes on similar construction work. Non-drilling activity will be allowed to continue as will drilling projects that are already underway. Stopping in-progress drilling progress could lead to the collapse of boreholes, negatively impacting the environment, FERC noted.

"The action taken today by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is a step in the right direction,” said Ohio EPA spokesman James Lee. “Ohio EPA is pleased with FERC’s actions to prohibit new drilling and require the company to implement additional environmental protections in areas where Rover is already drilling.

“Ohio EPA has been in close communication with FERC over the past few weeks and is pleased by the federal action taken following the company’s more than 2 million gallon release of bentonite (drilling mud) into a Category 3 wetland in Stark County, along with at least 17 other Rover-related incidents reported to the Ohio spill hotline in the last few weeks.”

A Category 3 wetland is the highest quality wetland in Ohio. Wetlands serve as filters between farm fields and important streams.

In the letter, FERC also is requiring the Rover pipeline's parent company to double the number of environmental inspectors along the Rover route to ensure compliance. Energy Transfer also must have plans in place to address potential releases and have a plan to restore the wetlands that have already been affected. Energy Transfer also worked on the contentious Dakota Access pipeline.

On Monday, haphazard conditions continued when 200 gallons of mud were released in a Harrison County spill. Harrison County is about 50 miles southeast of Canton.

In a letter to the Sentinel-Tribune on Tuesday, a company spokeswoman claimed the Ohio EPA has “misrepresented” the issues and that Energy Transfer remains in compliance with all permits.

“We have placed a great deal of focus and importance on our construction and mitigation efforts. We are not out of compliance with any of our permits. It is unfortunate that the Ohio EPA has misrepresented the situation and misstated facts in its comments. All areas in question have been cleared except for one, which is nearing completion,” stated spokeswoman Alexis Daniel.

She further stated the “drilling mud” inadvertently released in several incidents is safe for the environment and noted “we do not believe that there will be any long-term impact to the environment.”

In response to a call for comment on Wednesday's developments, Daniel responded with an email. 

"W have received the letter from the FERC. We continue to work with them and the OEPA on a resolution to this matter," she stated. 

The Ohio EPA director had expressed his frustration with the company on Monday. 

“All told, our frustration is really high. We don’t think they’re taking Ohio seriously,” said state EPA Director Craig Butler. “This is pretty systemic — that’s when the alarm bells go off in my head,” added Butler.

Environmental groups want more from the state agency. Some are calling for a complete halt to the troublesome project.

Energy Transfer plans to finish the Rover project and begin operating the pipeline this year.

On Friday, the Ohio EPA ordered Energy Transfer to pay $431,000 for water and air pollution violations at various locations across the state.

A certificate issued in by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in February allows for the construction and operation of the 551-mile pipeline, which is estimated to cost about $4 billion. The pipeline will connect with the Vector pipeline in Livingston County, Michigan.

The dual 42-inch pipeline would run through five townships in Wood County: Henry, Bloom, Milton, Jackson and Perry townships. The course of the pipeline has it crossing the Slippery Elm Trail. The company in 2015 made an initial offer of about $5,000 to bore underneath the trail just north of Cygnet Road.

When initially approving the project in February, FERC acknowledged that it would affect private property and wetlands, but said economic benefits would outweigh the damages.