Environmental concerns likely to alter planned Ohio pipeline

Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH), March 14, 2011
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com


The drilling boom that has created hundreds of natural-gas wells in Pennsylvania and West Virginia could shoot new pipelines across Ohio.

State officials are weighing proposals for three pipelines that would help move ethane, propane and other liquefied natural-gas products to refineries in Ontario and Louisiana.

It’s not clear whether all three pipelines would be built.

An application that Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc. filed with the state in November calls for a 240-mile pipeline from the Ohio River in Monroe County to the Michigan line west of Toledo.

The $550 million pipeline would create as many as 2,500 construction jobs and transport as much as 93,000 barrels of liquefied natural gas a day, according to the application.

It also would cross 334 streams, including three state scenic rivers, and go through 11 high-quality wetlands. The pipeline also would run near Toledo’s Oak Openings Preserve Metro Park, home to 180 rare and endangered plants.

That has environmental advocates concerned. Trent Dougherty, an attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council, said the state often does a poor job of enforcing rules that require companies to avoid or repair environmental damage.

“The pipeline transmission companies aren’t required to demonstrate that there is another way to do things,” Dougherty said.

Kim Wissman, director of the Ohio Power Siting Board, said it requires companies to safeguard the environment. The board, which includes officials of the Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, has sole authority to approve the pipeline plan and route.

She said the board has told Kinder Morgan to provide more-detailed ecological assessments of threats to wetlands, endangered species and vegetation along the proposed pipeline route.

The proposed pipelines are the latest ripple effect of a new drilling technology that’s drawing natural gas from deep shale deposits that once were considered unreachable.

Allen Fore, a Kinder Morgan spokesman, said the company is working to meet the siting board’s demands and expects to change the route and construction plans to reduce environmental damage.

“This is not the final route,” Fore said. “There are a variety of ways to deal with these issues.”

The company’s application said the liquefied natural gas would help heat homes and make fertilizers and plastics.

Houston-based El Paso Group also has proposed a 55-mile ethane pipeline that would run west from Monroe County to a pipeline in Cambridge. Spokesman Richard Wheatley said the company hasn’t filed an application with the siting board. “It’s very much in the proposal stages right now,” Wheatley said.

A third Houston-based company, Buckeye Partners, might have dropped its plan for a pipeline system that would enter Ohio at Monroe and Jefferson counties and stretch to the Michigan line west of Toledo.

“We are in stand-down mode,” said Elycia Gauthier, a company spokeswoman, who would not elaborate.

The Ohio EPA would have to review any potential damage to streams and wetlands and could order companies to repair the damage. Linda Oros, an Ohio EPA spokeswoman, said the agency supports the Power Siting Board’s demand that Kinder Morgan supply more information about the ecological impact of its proposed pipeline.

A Dec. 30 environmental-impact review prepared by the Department of Natural Resources notes that the pipeline would cross state-designated scenic sections of the Kokosing, Maumee and Sandusky rivers. The agency recommended that the company use a special horizontal drilling technique to extend the pipeline under the rivers without disturbing the stream beds.

The pipeline’s proximity to the Oak Openings metro park also was listed as a concern. The park is a release site for the endangered Karner blue butterfly, and among its 180 rare species of plants is dotted horsemint, which is considered endangered in Ohio.

The state’s questions and demands for more assessments probably would delay the planned July start date for construction listed in a Kinder Morgan fact sheet.

“I’m pretty sure that some of the things that we will require are things that have to be done this spring or in the upcoming months,” Wissman said.

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