DEP orders halt to Rover Pipeline construction

By KEN WARD JR.

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia regulators have ordered developers of the Rover Pipeline to halt work after finding a long list of water pollution violations caused by construction of the West Virginia segment of the $4.2 billion project, according to documents made public this week by state and federal officials.

Counties Rover Pipeline goes through

The state Department of Environmental Protection issued a cease-and-desist order to Rover Pipeline LLC a week ago, following repeated violations discovered during inspections on five different days in April, May, June and July, according to a copy of the order that was made public on Monday.

DEP inspectors had issued four separate notices of violation to Rover following the inspections, the most recent of which was conducted on July 12. The cease-and-desist order was issued on July 17 by Scott Mandirola, director of DEP’s Division of Water and Waste Management.

The inspectors had repeatedly found that Rover was not controlling sediment during the construction process, was violating its state-issued stormwater pollution permit and the state’s water quality standards, and was allowing sediment runoff from the project to enter creeks along the pipeline route in Doddridge County. Attached to DEP’s five-page order and a one-page cover letter were 60 pages of photographs documenting the violations. The DEP order cites violations affecting a number of streams, including Eibscamp Run, unnamed tributaries of Buckeye Creek, Jockeycamp Run, Morgans Run, Englands Run and unnamed tributaries of Nutter Fork.

DEP inspectors also cited Rover during inspections in April and May for failing to modify its stormwater pollution prevention plan when the plan “proved to be ineffective for achieving the general objectives of controlling pollutants in storm-water discharges” from its construction work.

Rover is a 714-mile pipeline from Michigan into Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It is meant to transport natural gas from processing plants in West Virginia, eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania to pipeline interconnects in West Virginia and eastern Ohio, as well as to a hub near Defiance, Ohio, where up to 68 percent of the gas will be delivered to distribution markets across the U.S. In West Virginia, the Rover project includes about 60 miles of new 24-inch and 36-inch pipeline, two new compressor stations, three new meter stations, and associated other facilities, according to DEP records.

The Rover is one of a collection of pipelines that are proposed or under construction across the region that are meant to take advantage of the Marcellus Shale gas boom, but are drawing opposition from local citizens and from national environmental groups.

The West Virginia order follows a series of other problems for Rover, including several spills into or near the Tuscarawas River in Ohio that have drawn scrutiny from FERC and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Rover is owned by Energy Transfer Partners, the same company that owns the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which has drawn international protests along part of its route in North Dakota.

“DEP did the right thing in halting this project,” said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “Unfortunately, it came after the damage has been done. This should be a cautionary tale of the serious problems pipelines can cause for our water.”

Rosser pointed out that the DEP issues permits in which the agency certifies that pipelines like Rover will not violate the state’s water quality standards. DEP issued such a certification for Rover in February, and another such certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline is being challenged by citizen groups in a case pending before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On Monday and Tuesday, the DEP has scheduled public hearings in Upshur and Pocahontas counties on water quality certification for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

“With more major pipeline projects ahead, DEP needs all of the support they can get to make sure pipeline plans they approve are sufficient and are working,” Rosser said. “And if these projects cannot show no harm, then their approval needs re-evaluated in the first place.”

Last week, the DEP did not respond to a request for a copy of the enforcement order issued to Rover. State officials released the order on Monday, the same day it was posted online to a public docket maintained by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

DEP’s order instructed Rover to “immediately cease and desist any further land development activity until such time when compliance with the terms and conditions of its permit and all pertinent laws and rules are achieved.” The company was told to contact DEP “to arrange an inspection prior to restarting development activities.”

The order also mandated that within 20 days Rover provided the DEP with a “proposed plan of corrective action and schedule, outlining action items and completion dates for how and when” the company “will achieve compliance with the terms and conditions of its permit and all pertinent laws and rules.”

DEP refused a request to interview agency staff who were involved in the inspections and enforcement action. Agency spokesman Jake Glance said the enforcement actions “speak for themselves.”

In an email, Glance added that, “At this time, the only operations that should be occurring on the Rover Pipeline are those to remediate the situation by installing and maintaining best management practices for erosion and sediment controls at the sites. The cease-and-desist order will remain in effect until the requirements in the order are satisfied.”

Alexis Daniel, a spokeswoman for Rover Pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners, said that the pipeline developers would “continue to work with the West Virginia DEP to resolve these issues in a manner that is satisfactory to all parties.”

In an email, Daniel added that construction is continuing on portions of the project that are in Hancock and Marshall counties, and that construction has stopped only in the specific areas cited in the DEP order.

The DEP order notes that the inspections in question were of construction sites operating under a DEP stormwater pollution permit for work in Doddridge and Tyler counties. Rover obtained separate DEP permits for work in Hancock and Marshall counties, according to the agency’s online records.

“We have been in continued communications with the WV DEP and are fully complying with the order,” Daniel said in the email.

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