FERC Lifts Rover Horizontal Drilling Ban, Pipeline Work Resumes

Rover Pipeline–$3.7 billion, 711-mile natural gas pipeline that (will eventually) run from PA, WV and eastern OH through OH into Michigan and on to Canada–began flowing natural gas through a large portion of the pipeline on Sept. 1st (see Big Portion of Rover Pipeline Now Up & Running – Thru Most of Ohio). In the past three weeks, Phase 1A of the pipeline has steadily increased its throughput and now flows over 700 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of yummy Utica/Marcellus Shale gas to Defiance, OH. However, it could flow more, if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would lift its considerable boot off Rover’s neck and let them finish Phase 1B pipeline work in eastern Ohio to feed more gas to the main part of the pipeline. The problem is that Rover had early missteps, the most serious of which spilled 2 million gallons of non-toxic drilling mud in a swamp near the Tuscarawas River back in April (see Rover Pipeline Accident Spills ~2M Gal. Drilling Mud in OH Swamp). An investigation by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) found the presence of diesel fuel in the drilling mud, which means the mud wasn’t so non-toxic after all (see OH EPA Says Diesel Fuel Found in Rover 2M Gal Drilling Mud Spill). Rover believes sabotage may have been the cause. Since April, FERC has blocked all new underground HDD work for the Rover project. Rover has asked (begged, pleaded) FERC, several times, for permission to restart the HDD work–at least in a few select locations. In August, FERC issued eight conditions before they would agree to lifting the HDD ban (see FERC Issues Rover 8 Commandments to Restart Horizontal Drilling). Rover says they have met all of those conditions. However, the OEPA says they have not. Last week OEPA asked FERC to continue blocking HDD activity until they (OEPA) are satisfied (see Rover Pipeline Still Battling Ohio EPA, Asks FERC to Lift HDD Ban). Rover fired off a letter to FERC that says OEPA’s public statements are opposite of their private statements with Rover. In other words, OEPA is lying. Who will FERC listen to? Now we know. They’re listening to Rover. Yesterday FERC lifted the ban on HDD for nine key locations–NOT including the Tuscarawas River site. FERC says they are still investigating that spill. FERC said, in lifting the HDD ban, that “Rover has demonstrated sufficient progress on the required rehabilitation and restoration of the areas affected by the inadvertent release and drilling mud contamination” and that the company is following FERC’s 8 Commandments. We’re pretty sure yesterday’s FERC decision won’t make the OEPA happy…

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