Written by: Amie Alexander, JD/MPS Candidate, William H. Bowen School of Law
The State of Ohio filed suit against Rover Pipeline, LLC in State Circuit Court in Ohio on November 3, 2017. Rover Pipeline, LLC (“Rover”) is the owner of drilling operations for the construction of a 713-mile interstate pipeline, which crosses 18 counties across Ohio. The State alleges that during construction of an interstate, natural gas pipeline, Rover illegally discharged millions of gallons of drilling fluids into Ohio’s waters and protected wetlands. Rover did not seek required permits before these discharges, and violated unrelated water pollution permits. You can read the complaint in its entirety here.
Ohio administers a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) for point source discharges of pollutants into waters of the state through its authority delegated to it by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
First, Ohio alleges that Rover discharged pollutants to Waters of the State without obtaining point source NPDES permits. Specifically, the state claims that Rover caused at least eleven point-source discharges into the waters of the state without applying for or obtaining a permit as required by state law. These discharges occurred between April and October 2017 and ranged from 200 gallons to 50,000 gallons discharged into state wetlands.
Second, Ohio claims that Rover failed to obtain a General Storm Water Permit for its Storm Water Discharges. A limited exception is available for companies under the storm water permit for oil and gas operations in Ohio. Ohio EPA notified Rover in May of its violation of Ohio’s water quality standards, however, signaling to Rover that this exception no longer applied because of their violations. As a result, Rover was required to obtain coverage under an Ohio NPDES permit to regulate the storm water discharges and failed to do so. Further, Rover was issued Director’s Orders to do so, but did not seek a permit or submit a notice of intent to seek a permit.
Third, Ohio claims Rover violated Ohio’s General Water Quality Standards, as it argues each of Rover’s unpermitted drilling fluid discharges into state waters were severe enough to violate Ohio’s general water quality standards as reflected in Ohio Adm. Code 3745-1-04(A – C). These discharges also violated Ohio’s Wetland Water Quality Standards, found in Ohio Adm. Code 3745-1-51(A-B). Specifically, these standards require “the protection of water quality necessary to support existing habitats and the populations of wetland flora and fauna shall be protected to prevent significant adverse impacts on: (a) food supplies for fish and wildlife; (b) reproductive and nursery areas; and (c) dispersal corridors.”
Fourth, Ohio claims Rover violated the limits of other NPDES permits it had obtained, specifically its Hydrostatic Permits, by discharging amounts in above the allowed discharges, failing to report the violations, and failing to monitor and sample parameters established by the terms of the permits.
Finally, Ohio claims Rover engaged in activities without a required state water quality certification. Though Rover began the process, it failed to pay all fees for the certification and thus the certification was never obtained effectively.
The State of Ohio asked the court to permanently enjoin Rover from discharging further pollutants into state wetlands and other waters, to require Rover to seek all required permits, comply with Ohio-EPA approved plans for water and wetland management, provide relief to injured residents, and pay civil penalties for all violations. The State is also seeking reimbursement for expenses incurred by Ohio EPA and litigation costs.