In Nov. 2017 the Ohio Attorney General’s office under then-AG Mike Dewine (RINO swamp dweller, now governor) sued Energy Transfer at the prompting of the Ohio EPA claiming the company’s Rover Pipeline project was guilty of “polluting state waters while constructing a natural gas pipeline across Ohio” (see OH EPA Director Manipulates Atty General to Sue Rover Pipeline). A Stark County judge on Monday threw out the case.
Energy Transfer, in responding to the original lawsuit, said Ohio has no right or jurisdiction to bring such a lawsuit against the Rover project because Rover is a federally-approved and regulated project. If anyone files such a lawsuit, it should be the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
The Ohio AG’s office said ET had violated not only federal regulations, like the Clean Water Act, but also state environmental regulations issued by the Ohio EPA. (Ohio EPA’s director, Craig “Captain Ahab” Butler, rises up again to kill the great white pipeline.)
The judge, in her ruling on Monday, said Ohio EPA had waived its right to regulate Rover pipeline construction under the Clean Water Act because it had failed to act within one year on ET’s “401” water certificate application. If there’s no legitimate jurisdiction, there’s no basis for a lawsuit. Which also means Ohio EPA’s $2.3 million fine levied in September 2017 is now down the toilet (see Ohio EPA’s Craig Butler Goes Nuts, Demands $2.3M from Rover Pipe).
ET is, understandably, elated:
A Stark County judge has dismissed the state’s lawsuit against Rover Pipeline over alleged water pollution during construction of the natural gas pipeline.
In a ruling filed Monday, Common Pleas Judge Kristin G. Farmer said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency waived its right to regulate pipeline construction under the Clean Water Act.
The state had a year to act on Rover’s application seeking to discharge pollutants under the Clean Water Act, and failed to do so, the judge wrote. Instead, Ohio EPA asked Rover to resubmit its application, which was approved.
The Ohio Attorney General sued Rover in November 2017, alleging environmental violations in more than a dozen counties across the state due to sediment-laden stormwater, leaks and spills of clay-based drilling fluid or the release of water used to pressure-test the pipeline.
The biggest spill happened in April 2017 when millions of gallons of clay-based drilling fluid leaked into a Bethlehem Township wetland while workers bored a path for one of two main lines beneath the Tuscarawas River.
The lawsuit asked the court to order Rover to comply with Ohio EPA’s orders and pay a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per day for each violation, as well as reimburse the Ohio EPA and pay the cost of the court action.
Rover and subcontractors Pretec Directional Drilling, Laney Directional Drilling, Atlas Trenchless, Mears Group and B&T Directional Drilling argued they had the necessary permits.
Also, they said federal law gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, not state agencies, authority to enforce environmental laws during construction of intestate pipelines.
“We are pleased with the judge’s thoughtful ruling, including the court’s recognition of FERC’s environmental oversight and jurisdiction over pipeline construction,” Rover spokeswoman Alexis Daniel wrote in an email. “We look forward to continuing to work cooperatively with the Ohio EPA and forging a good working relationship with its new leadership and the state of Ohio. We are committed to safely operating our Ohio assets and being both a good business and community partner in the state.”
Dominic Binkley, a spokesman for the Attorney General, said the office was reviewing the decision and considering the next step.
“The state will continue to seek to hold Rover accountable for the damage they have done to our environment,” he said.
The judge said her decision doesn’t mean the state can’t regulate pipeline construction to “curb disastrous environmental impacts on its waterways as a result of such construction. Nor does this holding provide natural gas companies carte blanche to perform drilling and other construction related to natural-gas lines regardless of the environmental impact of such action.”
The 713-mile Rover Pipeline, comprising two 42-inch-diameter mainlines, transports up to 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Utica and Marcellus shale regions to users in the United States and Canada. Texas-base Energy Transfer owns the pipeline.*
*Akron (OH) Beacon Journal (Mar 13, 2019) – Stark County judge tosses Rover Pipeline lawsuit
Judge’s ruling against Ohio AG’s office:
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