Ohio fines pipeline builder over water, air violations

Markets Associated Press

Ohio's environmental regulators have issued a $430,000 fine against a company building a natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Michigan.

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Energy Transfer is the company building the $4.2 billion pipeline. It will carry gas from West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

Energy Transfer also worked on the contentious Dakota Access pipeline.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says the Rover fines stem from water and air pollution violations at a number of locations.

State officials say work on the Rover natural gas pipeline since March has resulted in 18 incidents involving mud spills from drilling, stormwater pollution and open burning. One spill affected a village's public water system. Another accident released millions of gallons of bentonite mud, a drilling lubricant, into a protected wetland area.

Haphazard conditions continued this week when 200 gallons of mud were released in a Harrison County spill Monday.

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"It's very concerning. These violations are a swath across our entire state," Sierra Club organizer Cheryl Johncox said.

A company spokesman told The Columbus Dispatch that a small number of inadvertent releases of 'drilling mud' aren't unusual during drilling operations.

He also said Monday that the company doesn't think there has been any impact to the environment.

"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.

Ohio EPA officials contacted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for an analysis of the pipeline project. The state EPA is also examining alternative legal options, according to Butler.

In the meantime, state EPA inspectors will monitor the project and aid in spill cleanups.

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

"We want the construction halted," said Johncox.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com