As controversy swirls around a string of spills and air and water violations caused by Energy Transfer Partners’ construction of the Rover gas pipeline, a study released Wednesday underlines another reason federal regulators should halt the project: It will fuel a massive increase in climate pollution.
A new analysis by Oil Change International finds that, if the Rover Pipeline is built, it will cause as much greenhouse gas pollution as 42 coal-fired power plants – some 145 million metric tons per year. The study slams the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for using chronically outdated assumptions to sweep this significant climate impact under the rug in its environmental review of the project.
“As the biggest new pipeline being built to carry fracked gas out of the Appalachian Basin, the Rover Pipeline is the biggest climate disaster of them all,” said Lorne Stockman, senior research analyst at Oil Change International and the lead author of the study.
“After Trump’s malicious pullout from the Paris climate accord, challenging each new pipeline is all the more important,” he added. “While FERC remains in a state of denial, it’s increasingly clear that gas pipelines are a bridge to climate destruction. They increase access to gas that we can’t afford to burn and stall the transition to clean energy and efficiency solutions we need.”
The climate findings bolster mounting calls for federal regulators to shut down all construction of the Rover Pipeline and revisit its permit decision by conducting a supplemental environmental review. The project would carry 3.25 billion cubic feet of gas per day from Pennsylvania and West Virginia through Ohio and Michigan, and link up to hubs that service export markets.
In early May, FERC ordered a partial stop of horizontal directional drilling activities in Ohio after Energy Transfer Partners – the same company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline – spilled millions of gallons of drilling waste into fragile wetlands. Ohio regulators have already fined the company for violations, which now exceed two dozen. Last week, FERC confirmed it is investigating the presence of toxic diesel fuel in the spilled waste. Michigan and Ohio groups have filed a formal motion urging FERC to reopen the permit case, and more than 100 organizations sent a letter urging the agency to do the same.
“The Rover pipeline is another disaster brought to you by Energy Transfer Partners,” said Cheryl Johncox, fossil fuels organizer with the Sierra Club. “ETP has shown that they will use the most loathsome tactics to bully agencies and citizens to get what they want, destroying drinking water in the process. It is past time for regulatory agencies to shut the project down.”
Wednesday’s study calls on FERC to conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement for the Rover Pipeline that includes a credible analysis of the project’s lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impact, along with a thorough examination of the safety hazards of horizontal drilling techniques being used to construct the pipeline.
“Energy Transfer Partners threatens the very air we breathe and the waters we drink,” said Elaine Tanner, organizer with the Ohio River Citizens’ Alliance. “Day after day, the company gets away with dumping their slop and their slurry onto our wetlands, flowing into our rivers and streams. These construction techniques are obviously not working, yet the pipeline continues to grow across four states. We are fighting for survival here and the gas has not yet begun to flow.”
Laura Burns, Ohio organizer with Moms Clean Air Force, agrees. “It is important that we understand the actions we take now will impact our children for years to come,” she said. “What kind of a legacy do we leave for them when we ignore the march of climate-destroying infrastructure across our state?”
The Rover study is the fourth in a series of briefings by Oil Change International calculating the full climate impact of gas pipelines proposed in the Appalachian Basin. In total, the briefings show FERC has dismissed the pollution equivalent of more than 100 coal-fired power plants in reviewing the Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley, PennEast and Rover projects alone.
The analyses show that FERC habitually ignores the impact of methane leakage, which makes reliance on gas for electricity as dirty as coal, and ignores the economic reality that gas increasingly displaces clean energy, not coal. In contrast to FERC, Oil Change International’s methodology reflects the evolving analysis of methane leakage and fully adds up the lifecycle greenhouse gas pollution from gas fracking and processing, pipeline operation, gas combustion at power plants and methane leaked across the gas supply chain.