Drilling halted in Ohio on Rover Pipeline after spill into wetland

Workers assess a spill by Rover Pipeline affecting approximately 500,000 square feet of wetlands on April 27, 2017 in Stark County, Ohio. File Ohio EPA/NBC News

STARK COUNTY, OH (NBC News) — The same Texas-based company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline project is being told to stop drilling a natural gas pipeline in Ohio after millions of gallons of a drilling lubricant spilled into area wetlands.

According to NBC News, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Wednesday ordered Rover Pipeline to stop new drilling in the $4.2 billion project until it addresses environmental concerns, after the company spilled 2 million gallons of a nontoxic bentonite mud used as drilling lubricant in Stark County.

“The action taken Wednesday by FERC is a step in the right direction,” Ohio Environmental Protection Agency spokesman James Lee told NBC News. The spill could choke fish and plants, the state agency said.

The Ohio EPA last Friday ordered the pipeline company to pay at least $431,000 for multiple water and air pollution violations that occurred across the state.

Lee said the state agency has recorded 18 pipeline-related incidents that affected 11 counties over the past two months, ranging from open burning violations, bentonite mud spills and water pollution. At least eight broke state laws and more are under review, according to the Ohio EPA.

The bentonite mud spill affected 500,000 square feet of wetlands, which act as a natural filtration system for the nearby Tuscarawas River. It could suffocate local fish and other wildlife and plants as well as affect the wetlands’ water chemistry, the Ohio EPA said.

FERC ordered that Rover not start new drilling until independent third party expert investigates the company’s drilling plans and practices and makes some recommendations, and until it is satisfied the company has addressed environmental problems and taken appropriate precautions.

Energy Transfer Partners is the same company that financed the Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs near a Sioux reservation and sparked months of protests. The Dallas-based company said it is committed to working with regulators and cleaning up the spill in Stark County.

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