WV DEP Orders Rover Pipeline To Stop Construction, Citing Multiple Violations

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Above Photo: Sediment from construction of the Rover Pipeline enters a nearby stream, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. WEST VIRGINIA DEP

State regulators have slapped a cease-and-desist order on a natural gas pipeline, citing multiple water pollution violations, according to a letter made public by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

The 713-mile-long Rover Pipeline, which would transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from processing plants in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, received the order on March 5 from Scott Mandirola, director of the Division of Water and Waste Management, documents show.

According to the order, DEP officials conducted inspections on four days in February, during which they said they found 14 violations in Doddridge, Tyler and Wetzel counties. The alleged offenses include leaving trash and construction debris partially buried on site, improperly installing perimeter control and failing to inspect or clean public and private roads around the construction site.

The pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners, has been ordered to halt construction until state regulators inspect the site and determine that Rover Pipeline LLC is complying with the Water Pollution Control Permit issued Dec. 15, 2016. Rover also is tasked with submitting a plan of “corrective action,” due March 25, and installing devices to control erosion and sediment-water release.

Energy Transfer Partners also owns the Dakota Access Pipeline — the subject of protests in North Dakota last year.

The cease-and-desist order is the second the DEP has issued to the Rover Pipeline in the past year; state regulators cited the pipeline builders for similar violations in July 2017. Earlier that year, in April, the pipeline spilled more than 2 million gallons of drilling fluid in Ohio, eliciting scrutiny from regulators there.

That’s a red flag, said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

“When I see repeated violations, I say it’s time for this company to stop doing business in this state if they can’t do it responsibly,” she said.

The cease-and-desist also comes as other major projects, such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline, get ready to begin construction on their 300- and 600-mile natural gas pipelines, respectively.

In Monroe County, though, people have been sitting in trees on top of Peters Mountain to protest knocking down trees to build the Mountain Valley Pipeline there, potentially forcing the project to miss its March 31 deadline — the day the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says bats come out of hibernation.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline requested a preliminary injunction to continue construction, and the case was brought to Monroe County Circuit Court Tuesday afternoon. Another motion filed in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals says the Mountain Valley Pipeline shouldn’t have gotten its streamlined construction permit, called the Nationwide 12 permit, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because state regulators waived another certificate that was crucial for that streamlined permit.

“[There’s] a lot of anxiety building with people along the pipeline route seeing trees falling, there’s a sense that construction is eminent, and seeing the photos of Rover, and people are rightfully concerned because it’s just unequivocal that pipeline construction can cause damage to water, to rivers and streams, and nobody wants to see that. So it’s not an imagined threat, it’s a very real threat,” Rosser said.

The cease-and-desist order should signal to other pipelines that they’ll be closely watched by state regulatory agencies, as well as mobilized citizen groups and landowners, she said.

“We’re seeing the DEP enforcement staff is very busy with this one pipeline, but what happens when we layer three or four pipelines at the same time, as far as keeping an eye on things?” she said.

In an email, DEP spokesman Jake Glance noted that the order is just for the Sherwood lateral, one of the sections of the pipeline.

“Also, the company requested and was given clearance to wrap up work on one section of borehole that they were concerned would collapse if they stopped work,” he wrote.

Rover can appeal the cease-and-desist order, but Alexis Daniel, spokeswoman for Rover Pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners, said they were working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the DEP to “resolve any outstanding concerns in a manner that ensures the complete remediation of the areas to the satisfaction of all parties.”

Construction is more than 99 percent complete, and the project is expected to be finished in the second quarter of this year, she said.