Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), builders of the Dragonpipe (the Mariner East 2 pipeline), are in the process of building other controversial pipelines elsewhere. They’re the company behind the Dakota Access pipeline and its sister pipeline in Louisiana, the highly-protested Bayou Bridge pipeline.
Rover: handling the “dry gas” from Marcellus shale. They also have a pipeline project called “Rover” which is closely related to the Dragonpipe. At a processing plant near the Marcells shale fracking wells in western Pennsylvania, the raw natural gas is separated into “natural gas liquids” (which the Dragonpipe is designed to carry to Marcus Hook) and “dry gas” (ordinary natural gas) which the Rover pipeline is designed to carry to Canada via Ohio and Michigan. So for ETP, Rover is the answer to one half of the Marcellus fracking distribution problem; the Dragonpipe is the answer to the other half.
As with the Dragonpipe, the haste and carelessness of the Rover construction process has caused many problems. Rover contractors spilled millions of gallons of fracking mud into an Ohio wetland earlier this year, and tore down a historic house that they were under contract to avoid damaging. This is typical of the ETP operating approach: do whatever is expedient for pipeline construction and deal with the fallout in court later.
Contaminating wetlands with gasoline. On Oct. 10, in a Rover work area just west of Ann Arbor,Michigan, local residents noticed that water with a gasoline odor was spilling into a wetland. This wasreported to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ); and on Oct. 13, the DEQ issued a notice of violation. It seems that Rover contractors were pumping water out of a pipeline trench (“dewatering”) and the groundwater in the trench had been contaminated with gasoline from an old gas station that had once been nearby. When that type of situation is encountered, the contractor is supposed to obtain a permit, including a plan for treating the water before discharging it. The contractor didn’t do that, and was also using a higher-volume pump than permitted.
As a result, the DEQ has told the contractor to “cease any unauthorized discharges, submit an application for the proper permit and register the water withdrawal.” More details are here.
The immediate effect is that work is stopped on that stretch of the Rover pipeline—potentially for quite a while.
Why should we care about Rover’s problems? There are two reasons why this gasoline contamination on the Rover project should matter to opponents of the Dragonpipe. First, it is yet another example of environmental abuse to add to ETP’s shameful record. Second (and potentially more important), if it causes a significant slowdown in Rover construction, ETP won’t get Rover operating revenues that it desperately needs to handle payments on the vast debt it has accumulated. (It is desperate to complete the Dragonpipe for the same reason.) So a significant delay in one (or both!) pipelines could provoke a financial crisis for ETP.
January-February will be a crucial period for ETP’s cash-flow situation. On-line chat among ETP investors suggests they are getting impatient with the company, but they don’t yet believe that protests will have any effect. We can prove them wrong.