Ohio again asks FERC to block drilling for Rover natgas pipeline project

Jan 24 (Reuters) - Ohio environmental regulators again asked federal energy regulators to order Energy Transfer Partners to cease drilling operations on the Rover natural gas pipeline project under the Tuscarawas River over concern about the potential for a spill.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency urged the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in a filing made available on Wednesday that “Rover has reported lost approximately 200,000 gallons of drilling fluids to the environment” from the hole ETP is drilling under the Tuscarawas River in Stark County, Ohio.

That is the same site as a spill last April of 2 million gallons of mostly clay and water used to lubricate drilling blades, which led FERC to temporarily ban ETP from new horizontal drilling in May.

Pipeline companies use horizontal drilling to cross under large obstacles like highways and rivers.

The Ohio EPA said Rover has ceased operations at the site and is seeking approval from FERC on a plan submitted on Jan. 22 to continue horizontal drilling.

“This plan only provides temporary solutions and only suggests ways Rover may minimize expected losses if allowed to proceed,” the Ohio EPA said, noting “Ohio cannot support the plan” and wants FERC to require ETP to cease drilling operations and abandon the drill.

Officials at ETP were not immediately available for comment.

Last week, the company said it was in compliance with the FERC-approved horizontal drilling plan.

FERC in December allowed ETP to complete all horizontal drills on the Rover project, including those in Ohio.

Since asking FERC to ban ETP from all horizontal drilling in Ohio in November, the state EPA has already asked FERC a few times in January to stop the company from drilling under the Tuscarawas River.

Once finished, the $4.2 billion Rover pipeline will carry up to 3.25 billion cubic feet of gas per day of gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the U.S. Midwest and Ontario in Canada.

One bcfd can supply about 5 million U.S. homes.

The company has said it expects to finish Rover by the end of the first quarter.

About 1.0 bcfd of gas was already flowing on completed portions of the pipeline, according to Reuters data.

Major gas producers signed up to use Rover include units of privately held Ascent Resources LLC, Antero Resources Corp , Range Resources Corp, Southwestern Energy Co , Eclipse Resources Corp and EQT Corp.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy