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Rover Seeks OK to Clear More Trees, Has Water Quality Permits in Hand

Backers of the Rover Pipeline pressed FERC Friday to issue a notice to proceed (NTP) with tree clearing activities for all areas of the project in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan.

Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a limited NTP authorizing tree-clearing in upland areas but not in wetland or waterbody areas.

On Friday Rover [CP15-93] requested "the critical and immediate issuance of a [NTP] with tree clearing by non-mechanized means" in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan, including areas excluded by FERC's earlier, more limited NTP. Rover said it has secured necessary water quality permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Rover's also requested permission to begin tree clearing for the related Panhandle and Trunkline backhaul projects. Rover, Panhandle and Trunkline are all backed by Energy Transfer.

In order to limit impacts on the protected Indiana and northern long-eared bats, Rover has until the end of March to clear trees along the project route before the seasonal window closes until the fall. With Rover striving for a 2017 start-up date for the 3.25 Bcf/d Appalachian takeaway project, time is of the essence.

Rover had previously told FERC it needed to begin tree clearing by mid-January in order to avoid a possible delay of up to a year. Rover has since reaffirmed its original timetable of partial service to Defiance, OH, by July 2017, with full service commencing by Nov. 2017.

The 710-mile Rover seeks to connect Marcellus and Utica shale gas to Midwest markets through interconnections with the Vector Pipeline in Michigan and with the Dawn Hub in Ontario, Canada. The timing of Rover's substantial proposed capacity entering service could have significant effects on constrained Appalachian Basin producers eagerly awaiting new takeaway.

FERC issued a certificate order approving Rover on Feb. 2, shortly before losing its quorum with the resignation of former Chairman Norman Bay.

FERC has taken a stern tone with Rover after developers demolished a historic home in Ohio outside the Commission's knowledge. After involving the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation over potential violations of federal historic preservation laws, FERC denied Rover's request for a blanket certificate to conduct certain routine construction activities. FERC wrote that Rover's demolition of the historic home "raises the question of whether Rover would fully comply with our environmental regulations in future construction activities under a blanket certificate."

In its NTP last week, FERC warned of possible further agency action if it learns that Rover has run afoul of its requirements.

"There have been several filings made in the docketed proceeding alleging that tree felling or tree cutting commenced prior to Commission authorization," FERC wrote. "On Feb. 13, 2017, Rover filed a statement denying allegations that Rover or any of its contractors had engaged in any tree felling or clearing of brush. This letter...does not preclude any appropriate enforcement action for potential unauthorized tree clearing that may have taken place."

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