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Ohio EPA Grants Nexus Certificate; Director Says Agency Learned From ‘Mistakes’ With Rover

The Nexus Gas Transmission pipeline cleared another regulatory hurdle this week when the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) announced that it has issued a water quality certification for the 255-mile, 1.5 Bcf/d natural gas project.

Ohio EPA said Tuesday it has issued Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 clearance for the pipeline, which plans to cross 13 Ohio counties before traveling into Michigan.

The agency said its decision to issue the certificate came "after lengthy and careful review and consideration to ensure this pipeline project complies with Ohio law and is protective of the environment and public health.

"...For many months, Ohio EPA considered technical, economic, social and environmental aspects of the project, held an information session and public hearing on the application, and received and reviewed public input throughout an initial and extended comment period."

Ohio EPA said it is also requiring Nexus to maintain "detailed contingency plans for managing unanticipated releases to the environment, such as inadvertent returns, and a stormwater pollution prevention plan to manage possible stormwater-related impacts to the environment."

Nexus, backed by Enbridge Inc. and DTE Energy Co., received its FERC certificate in August after having to wait out a six-month quorumless stretch at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The project, designed to deliver Marcellus and Utica shale gas to markets in the Midwest and Canada, is roughly two-thirds subscribed.

"After more than three years of public and agency review, we were pleased to receive the 401 Water Quality Certification from the Ohio EPA," project spokesman Adam Parker said. "This receipt marks another key milestone as we prepare for construction and work toward an in-service date late in the third quarter of 2018.""

Securing the Ohio water quality certificate counts as a major win for Nexus given that anti-pipeline groups have looked to state CWA 401 reviews recently as a means to thwart projects. After New York state regulators successfully stalled progress on the Constitution Pipeline by denying a CWA 401 permit last year, environmental groups and other project opponents have been paying close attention to state water quality reviews for natural gas infrastructure, most recently the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.

Nexus has faced pushback from landowners along the route and from Michigan regulators, who have scrutinized DTE's capacity commitments to the project

The approval for Nexus also comes as Ohio EPA has been at odds with Rover Pipeline LLC, another major greenfield transmission project traveling through the state, over alleged environmental violations occurring during construction of that project.

Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler said during a media call Wednesday that the agency is taking a different approach with Nexus after the issues it experienced with Rover.

"We try to learn from our mistakes and others and learn lessons as we go and adapt as we need to," Butler said. "...If you take an opportunity to look at some of the requirements" contained in the Nexus CWA 401 permit compared to "what we issued to Rover, you'll see we learned a great deal."

Butler said many of Rover's contingency plans were "very generic" while the Nexus permit includes plans that are more detailed and site-specific.

Once in-service, Nexus and Rover will be competing to deliver Appalachian Basin gas to markets west of the Marcellus and Utica, just as more supply could be heading west-to-east on the Rockies Express Pipeline via Tallgrass Energy Partners LP's proposed Cheyenne Connector pipeline project.

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