A Rough Road for Rover Pipeline

Rover Pipeline Officials Working Through Obstacles

File Photo
Natural gas industry workers load pipe onto a truck before going to a construction site in the Upper Ohio Valley.

File Photo Natural gas industry workers load pipe onto a truck before going to a construction site in the Upper Ohio Valley.

WHEELING — Earlier this year, developers of the $4.3 billion Rover Pipeline successfully used eminent domain to obtain land for building the 42-inch-wide conduit through Ohio and West Virginia, with the goal of moving natural gas through at least a portion of the system by the end of this month.

However, setbacks involving the release of 2 million gallons of drilling slurry near the Tuscarawas River in Ohio — as well as what Federal Energy Regulatory Commission officials term “several misstatements” about the developer’s work — leave Rover officials scrambling to finish the project on time.

“We continue to actively work with FERC and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to resolve all issues in a manner that is satisfactory to all parties,” Rover spokeswoman Alexis Daniel said.

Officials with FERC granted Rover the right to build its conduit to ship up to 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day early this year. Rover is one of several interstate pipelines that will likely eventually come through the Upper Ohio Valley, along with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Leach XPress, the Mountaineer XPress and the Nexus Pipeline.

Industry leaders say the pipelines are necessary to move natural gas to market, which will ultimately lead to more drilling and fracking.

However, according to a FERC document signed by Office of Energy Projects Director Terry L. Turpin, Rover officials must remove “all drilling mud and drill cuttings with the presence of petroleum hydrocarbons” that regulators found near the Tuscarawas River earlier this year. Regulators believe Rover’s drilling during the effort to build the pipeline may have created this contamination, which they said must be removed before Rover can finish the line.

“Your prompt assistance in determining the cause of the drilling mud contamination will allow commission staff to develop the necessary protocols and consider resumption of horizontal directional drilling activities,” Turpin states in a letter to Rover officials.

Another issue Rover faces is its demolition of the historic Stoneman House in Carroll County, Ohio, as FERC officials believe the company made “several misstatements” about its intentions for the structure.

“Rover falsely promised it would avoid adverse effects to a historic resource that it was simultaneously working to purchase and destroy,” FERC Secretary Kimberly Bose stated regarding the Stoneman House.

Daniel said Rover has resolved all issues regarding the Stoneman House with the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office. Published reports indicate the company agreed to pay $1.5 million for removing the house.

“We will continue to work with FERC to address any remaining Stoneman House issues,” Daniel added.

According to the planned project map, the Rover’s route begins in Doddridge County, W.Va. It then heads northwest through Tyler County before reaching the Ohio River. It then runs beneath the river and into Monroe County, where it eventually meets another line in the Beallsville area. The line then heads east to the Clarington area.

The map shows a 42-inch pipeline running from the Clarington area, north through Belmont County. At this point, a pipeline that travels west and under the Ohio River from Marshall County will connect with the main line in the Jacobsburg area of Belmont County.

From there, the 42-inch line heads northwest through the St. Clairsville area and into Harrison County. It will then collect more natural gas from another pipeline running west from Washington County, Pa., as this line runs through Hancock and Jefferson counties.

The route then heads northwest across Ohio and into Michigan. However, both U.S. senators representing Michigan — Democrats Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters — are now asking FERC to halt the Rover because of how close the pipeline will run to a YMCA campground and about 90 homes.

“The community has raised serious safety issues regarding this route and concerns about the integrity of the public review and comment period for this project,” the senators state in a message to FERC.

Nevertheless, Daniel said Rover should still meet its goal of opening the portion of the line running from Cadiz to Defiance, Ohio before the end of summer, while she said the entire project should be done by the end of the year.

“At this time, we do not anticipate any delays to the November 2017 in-service date,” she added.

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