Ohio EPA Says Wetlands Damaged By Pipeline Company Will Take Decades To Recover

Energy Transfer Partners, the company heading the Dakota Access pipeline program, is also constructing a pipeline across Ohio. When completed, it will transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of gas each day from West Virginia, Ohio, and Michigan to Ontario, Canada. In April, the company discharged some 2 million gallons of a substance known as bentonite clay into sensitive wetlands.

pipeline company damages wetlands in Ohio

“It’s a tragedy in that we would anticipate this wetland won’t recover to its original condition for decades,” Ohio EPA spokesman James Lee told ThinkProgress. “And had [ETP] more carefully followed best practices and been prepared to respond to the bentonite release, this likely would not have occurred on the scale that we are dealing with now.” Ohio has told Energy Transport Partners it owes the state $430,000 as a result of the “inadvertent” damage to the wetlands.

We Did Nothing Wrong

“Horse puckey,” says the company. Displaying a complete lack of concern for the spill, it tells Think Progress it has done nothing wrong. “We have placed a great deal of focus and importance on our construction and mitigation efforts. We are not out of compliance with any of our permits. It is unfortunate that the Ohio EPA has misrepresented the situation and misstated facts in its recent comments.”

The company says the discharge “is a mixture of naturally occurring bentonite clay and water and is safe for the environment. Bentonite is commonly used in a variety of household products that we use every day such as beer and wine, sugar, honey, creams and lotions, baby powders, laundry detergents and hand soaps. We do not believe that there will be any long term impact to the environment.”

The Ohio EPA has issued a proposed order requiring ETP to develop a contingency plan to prevent future spills and setting forth what penalties will apply in the event any do occur. But the company is having none of it. It contends that the state does not have the  “authority to enforce violations of its federally delegated state water pollution control statutes.”

Playing Both Ends Against The Middle

Isn’t it interesting how the fossil fuel industry sings out of both sides of its mouth at the same time? If a state tries to protect its citizens, it’s a federal issue. If the federal government tries to protect its citizens, it is in violation of “states rights.” In essence, its position is that it is answerable to no one and should be free to do whatever it wants whenever it wants.

Indeed, the permitting and oversight process for pipelines that cross state and national boundaries is an impenetrable thicket that provides any number of loopholes for those looking to take advantage of the process. The Army Corps of Engineers, the US Forest Service and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are all involved.

That means a company like ETP can bog any enforcement efforts down in interminable delays. By the time someone steps in and sorts things out, the pipeline will be complete and ETP will be off to rape another wilderness. Indeed, the Ohio EPA has written to FERC but gotten no reply. And Humpty Trumpty in the White House, a man who never met a coal mine or a fracking operation he didn’t like, it is highly unlikely the feds are going to step up on this issue.

Corporate Hubris Raised To A High Art

To some extent, ETP is correct that bentonite clay is used commercially every day and is found in many household products. A quick internet search reveals it is recommended for skin care and is even ingested by some people for its perceived health benefits. But there is no record of anyone eating 2 million gallons of the stuff. The company’s position has the same stubbornly condescending tone as coal companies who think that removing mountain tops and dumping them into streams and rivers is is okay because the dirt is “natural.” A person can convince himself of any number of ludicrous ideas if there is enough profit in it.

The company’s dismissive attitude is similar to the of Oscar Munoz, the completely tone deaf CEO of United Airlines who refused to apologize when his company forcibly removed a passenger from one of its flights, giving him a concussion and knocking out two of his teeth in the process. Companies like ETP think they should be free to conduct their business in any way they see fit without any government officials slowing them down and affecting their profits with a bunch of silly rules and regulations.

Empowered By A Corrupt President

Having putative president Donald Trump as an investor in Energy Transfer Partners makes it all the more likely that ETP will get its way. Corruption has become such a high art in America today, those gaming the system aren’t even embarrassed when they get caught. Trump and his pals are looting America and many of their supporters are cheering even as their own financial outlook gets bleaker every day. What a curious place America has become.

Source: Think Progress 


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