The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has ordered Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) to stop work on the $4.2 billion Rover pipeline, which will eventually deliver enough natural gas to power 5 million homes, according to Reuters.
The DEP is not the first agency to allege environmental violations related to the Pennsylvania-to-Ontario pipeline. It cited ETP for sediment deposits and inadequate erosion controls, among other issues. In May, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission imposed a drilling ban after the line released 2 million gallons of diesel-laced drilling fluid into Ohio wetlands.
Even with the work stoppage, ETF said its schedule for this final phase of construction is unchanged. Analysts estimated that substantial service through Rover would not start until 2018.
Safety and environmental concerns are common with drilling projects, even as their proponents call attention to the rigorous use of monitoring technology. The construction industry, meanwhile, highlights their job-creation potential. Neither has spared such projects from contentious debate, however.
ETF is also the company behind the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which has been a lightning rod for controversy, particularly the underground stretch below Lake Oahe in North Dakota.
The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes claim the pipeline will keep them from carrying out important religious ceremonies that require clean water, a point a federal judge shot down as part of the tribes' request to have the project stopped about one week before it was scheduled for completion.
The project had been held up by assorted legal challenges until President Donald Trump, in one of his first actions as president, ordered the secretary of the Army to expedite approvals for work to continue under Oahe. At the same time, he directed the owners of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will run from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska, to "promptly resubmit" the project's application after it had experienced regulatory delays under the Obama administration.
While U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg denied Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux requests to stop the Dakota Access project on religious grounds, in June he ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to complete a supplementary environmental review concerning the effects of a potential spill under Oahe. According to the Army Corps, that process could take until the end of the year.
The Army Corps said its determination that the pipeline, buried 100 feet underground, posed little risk to the lake would most likely remain unchanged in the new review. As a result, it and ETF asked Boasberg to allow the line to continue operating while they prepared the updated environmental report. According to ETF, a shutdown would cost the company $90 million a month.