Ohio again asks FERC to block drilling for Rover natural gas pipeline project


(Reuters) – Ohio environmental regulators again asked federal energy regulators to order Energy Transfer Partners to cease drilling operations on the Rover natural gas pipeline project under the Tuscarawas River over concern about the potential for a spill.

Rover has reported a loss of approximately 200,000 gallons of drilling fluids from the hole ETP is drilling under the Tuscarawas River in Stark County, Ohio, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said in a filing with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which was made available on Wednesday.

The Ohio EPA said Rover has ceased operations at the site and is seeking approval from FERC on a plan submitted on Jan. 22 to continue horizontal drilling.

“This plan only provides temporary solutions and only suggests ways Rover may minimize expected losses if allowed to proceed,” the Ohio EPA said, noting “Ohio cannot support the plan” and wants FERC to require ETP to cease drilling operations and abandon the drill.

That is the same site as a spill last April of 2 million gallons of mostly clay and water used to lubricate drilling blades, which led FERC to temporarily ban ETP from new horizontal drilling in May.

Pipeline companies use horizontal drilling to cross under large obstacles like highways and rivers.

“We have ceased operations at the Tuscarawas site. However, we are continuing our construction activities at all other locations,” said Alexis Daniel, a spokeswoman for ETP, in an email.

The company said it expects to finish Rover by the end of the first quarter and added that it was in compliance with the FERC-approved horizontal drilling plan.

Since asking FERC to ban ETP from all horizontal drilling in Ohio in November, the state EPA has already asked FERC a few times in January to stop the company from drilling under the Tuscarawas River.

Once finished, the $4.2 billion Rover pipeline will carry up to 3.25 billion cubic feet of gas per day of gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the U.S. Midwest and Ontario in Canada.

One bcfd can supply about 5 million U.S. homes.

One of the two pipelines under the Tuscarawas River is completed and about 1.0 bcfd of gas was already flowing on it, according to Reuters data.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York; Additional reporting by Vijaykumar Vedala in Bengaluru; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Diane Craft