Ohio increases fines to $2.3M against pipeline developer

Ohio's environmental regulators have more than doubled the proposed fines against a company building a natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Michigan, saying Wednesday the two sides are at an impasse.

The fines now stand at $2.3 million and stem from what the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says are numerous water and air pollution violations during construction of the $4.2 billion Rover Pipeline.

The twin pipelines are being built across Ohio to carry natural gas from Appalachian shale fields to Canada and states in the Midwest and the South.

Dallas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners, which also was behind the Dakota Access oil pipeline, has resisted attempts at resolving the fines, said Craig Butler, director of Ohio's Environmental Protection Agency.

Butler said he is now asking the state's attorney general to get involved.

Energy Transfer Partners said it will continue to work with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to meet its requirements.

The federal commission that oversees gas pipelines this week gave the company the approval to restart drilling operations. New drilling on unfinished sections had been halted after 2 million gallons (7.6 million liters) of drilling mud seeped into a wetland in the spring.

Energy Transfer Partners spokeswoman Alexis Daniel said the project now is expected to be completed and operating by the end of March.

The head of the Ohio EPA said the pipeline company doesn't think the state has authority to impose regulations because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission already gave the company approval on the project.

"That really is the heart of the matter," Butler said.

The developer has complied with orders to begin plans to clean up and restore wetlands that were coated with drilling mud, remove mud contaminated with diesel fuel from two quarries and monitor water wells near those sites, Butler said.

But he said the company is refusing the state's directive to obtain storm water pollution permits.

Ohio's environmental regulators and farmers say there have been problems with flooded fields since construction crews began laying pipe in March to meet the company's initial plan of finishing the project by November.