The debate over the construction of fossil fuel pipelines has been raging since the Obama administration occupied the White House. During the former president’s waning months in office, he fended off countless efforts by the Republican-led majority to pass a bill authorizing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Since Trump’s inauguration, the country has been taken by storm in his administration’s efforts to reignite domestic production and the transportation of oil and gas. States like Ohio, which are vital in transporting goods and services, have begun constructing new energy pipelines.
Ohio currently has two major pipeline projects: the Nexus Pipeline, which runs primarily through the heart of northeast Ohio; and the Rover Pipeline, which runs further south, and connects West Virginia and southwest Pennsylvania to northwest Ohio. Energy Transfer is the company constructing the Rover Pipeline — the same company which was stalled by protestors for nine months as they attempted to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline on an established Indian reservation.
The fossil fuel industry — a main proponent of Ohio becoming a hub for oil and gas transportation lines — have rallied to the call of president, pledging that the pipeline will fuel local communities with millions of dollars. They allege it will happen by obtaining the materials needed for construction from companies in the states they are working, as well as the goods and services used by employees during construction.
Advocates have insisted that while they have used eminent domain policy to procure land for public use, the lines will be drawn on land that is already allocated to public resources. Any usage of private property will be fiscally compensated.
Throughout construction, workers can run into many issues — both natural and man-made — when mapping the pipeline. They may have to create new infrastructure and take down trees that run in its path.
Since construction began, they have ran into numerous issues regarding drilling methods. Among the most notorious of these includes a 200-gallon bentonite-based oil leak.
“The drilling fluids used in these pipeline construction projects [are] essentially water mixed with bentonite clay,” UC geology professor Warren Huff said. “Bentonite is very absorptive, and is used throughout the drilling industry to capture and retain rock and soil fragments during the drilling process. The occasional spills of these fluids are not environmentally harmful, although they can be very messy to clean up.”
Moving forward, environmentalists are weary of any further ecological impact on Ohio wetlands related to natural gas leakage. A prime example of this was the Aliso Canyon leak — a natural gas leak at the second largest storage facility in the country, which was discovered in 2015. It is estimated that the resulting carbon footprint was larger than that of the 2010 BP oil spill disaster.
“Natural gas is mostly methane,” said Amy Townsend-Small, UC’s director of environmental studies. “The biggest impact of methane on the atmosphere is that it is a greenhouse gas between 34 and 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.”
The Rover Pipeline is expected to complete construction during the first quarter of 2018.