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Rover Pipeline’s spill of 2 million gallons of drilling fluid in a local wetland led the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Wednesday to halt similar construction work elsewhere on the pipeline route.
Energy Transfer is building the $4.2 billion interstate natural gas pipeline across Ohio. Where Rover’s route crosses highways and rivers, construction teams drill a path horizontally underground so as not to disturb surface activity.
As workers drilled beneath the Tuscarawas River south of Navarre on April 13, approximately 2 million gallons of fluid released and coated 6.5 acres of wetland vegetation and soil with drill cuttings and bentonite clay, a substance used to lubricate the drill.
On Wednesday, FERC halted similar drilling projects at eight other locations, including routes under the Ohio and Portage rivers. Rover has yet to start drilling in those areas.
The company can continue drilling projects already underway because to stop could cause boreholes to collapse and prolong environmental impacts, according to FERC’s letter to Rover officials.
Regular, non-drilling construction also can continue, but FERC ordered Rover to double the number of environmental inspectors per construction spread.
FERC told Rover to have an independent third-party contractor analyze all drilling activity at the Tuscarawas River site. FERC staff will control the scope, content and quality of the review, according to the letter.
“We have received the letter from the FERC,” Rover spokeswoman Alexis Daniel wrote in an email. “We continue to work with them and the (Ohio Environmental Protection Agency) on a resolution to this matter. At this time, there has been no change to our construction schedule.”
FERC said it was troubled by the size of the release, its impact on the wetland, the possibility of future problems and the lack of clarity in what happened. Drilling beneath the river had been underway for three weeks, during which releases were intermittent or absent, according to the letter.
On Friday, the Ohio EPA ordered Energy Transfer to pay $431,000 for water and air pollution violations connected to Rover construction at various locations across the state.