Last month, the company reported two spills that sent almost 50,000 barrels of drilling fluids flowing into Ohio wetlands while working to install its $4.2 billion Rover natural gas pipeline. Since then, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said, more have occurred.
“The affected wetland will likely not recover to its previous condition for decades,” James Lee, a spokesman for the agency, said by phone Friday. “Had Rover more closely monitored their drilling equipment, and been better prepared for an immediate emergency response, this incident would likely not have occurred on the scale that we’re dealing with now.”
Energy Transfer, the same company behind the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline, has faced challenges in finishing the Rover line for months. It drew heat last year after razing a historic house in the line’s path and raced against the clock to clear 3,000 acres of trees within weeks before a deadline set to protect a bat-roosting season. Gas traders are betting on when the pipeline will start because it’ll be capable of moving more than 3 billion cubic feet of gas from eastern U.S. shale formations to markets across the Midwest, Gulf Coast and Canada daily.
For its part, Energy Transfer spokeswoman Alexis Daniel said by email that fluid spills are “not an unusual occurrence” during drilling operations and that the company doesn’t believe the releases will have an impact on the environment.
Energy Transfer has said it’s still expecting to fully complete the line on time in November. Meanwhile, Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency has issued several notices of violation for the spills of drilling fluids, a slurry of clay and water.
Energy Transfer confirmed that “a small number of inadvertent releases” have occurred since the two spills it reported last month. Neither Energy Transfer Partners nor the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency could immediately say how much fluid has been spilled to date.