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Dismissal Of Ohio Lawsuit Against Pipeline Company Is Upheld

CLEVELAND (AP) — An Ohio appeals court this week upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the state against the builders of a natural gas pipeline over spills of drilling fluid into wetlands during construction in 2017.

A three-judge panel for the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Canton said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency lacked the authority to enforce regulations against Rover Pipeline LLC because it failed to act within a year's time on the company's 2016 application for a clean water certificate.

The $4.3 billion Rover Pipeline consists of twin 42-inch high-pressure lines that span 713 miles (1,147 kilometers) miles from northern West Virginia into Michigan. They are capable of carrying 3.25 billion cubic feet (92 million cubic meters) of natural gas per day, an amount that can serve the needs of 30,000 homes for a year. The pipelines began carrying gas in August 2017.

The project developed by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners drew the attention of the Ohio EPA when construction crews spilled 2 million gallons (7.6 million liters) of non-toxic clay-based lubricant into wetlands as it installed pipe beneath the Tuscarawas River in northern Ohio's Stark County.

Ohio proposed a $2.3 million fine against Rover Pipeline LLC and sued the company and its contractors in November 2017, saying Rover officials were unwilling to engage in settlement talks.

Energy Transfer officials said at the time that it would work with the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission to meet environmental requirements.

A Stark County judge dismissed Ohio's lawsuit in March, saying the state waived its rights by not approving the company's clean water certificate within a year as state regulations require, a decision upheld by the Fifth District panel.

Asked about the appeals court decision on Friday, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said, "We are weighing our options and considering next steps."

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