Proposed Fine on Pipeline Builder Increased in Wetland Spill

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CANTON, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s environmental watchdog agency has raised the proposed penalty against a company building a high-pressure natural gas pipeline across the state after tests found diesel fuel in samples taken from the 2 million gallons of drilling mud that spilled into a wetland in April.

The Canton Repository reports (http://bit.ly/2qJ8WA1 ) that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday hiked the proposed penalty from $430,000 to $914,000 against Energy Transfer, the Dallas-based company building the $4.2 billion Rover pipeline project.

The state EPA also has ordered the company to monitor ground water around the spill site in Stark County and near a quarry where it has been dumping mud used during horizontal directional drilling beneath the Tuscarawas River about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Cleveland.

The quarry is close to a well owned by a company that supplies drinking water to 40,000 county residents. The newspaper reported that officials are waiting on test results from 11 other private wells.

The discovery of diesel fuel in the drilling mud has also caught the attention of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which granted the company its permits to build the pipeline. The newspaper reported that the FERC on Thursday ordered Energy Transfer to preserve records related to the composition, acquisition, preparation and disposal of the mud, which the company told the federal agency is non-toxic in an application to build the pipeline.

The commission ordered Energy Transfer on May 10 to stop new horizontal drilling after the Stark County mud spill April 13 and a smaller spill into a wetland the following day in Richland County. In a letter sent to Energy Transfer on Thursday, the commission said, “This incident raises concerns about potential long-term environmental impacts, including impacts on sensitive wetlands in Ohio.”

An Energy Transfer spokeswoman told the newspaper the company is cooperating with both the Ohio EPA and FERC.

The proposed 713-mile-long pipeline will cross through 18 Ohio counties to connect with lines in Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to carry natural gas from Appalachian shale fields. The Ohio portion begins in southeast Ohio’s Washington County and ends in northwest Ohio’s Defiance County.

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