Company behind Dakota Access Pipeline spills over 2 million gallons of drilling fluids into Ohio wetlands

Energy Transfer Partners has twice spilled drilling fluids into “pristine” Ohio wetlands this month.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File
CREDIT: AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File

Energy Transfer Partners — the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline — has spilled drilling fluid into two pristine Ohio wetlands this month, according to information reported to the Ohio EPA.

The spills were not related to the Dakota Access Pipeline, and instead occurred while Energy Transfer Partners was constructing a different pipeline that would stretch 710 miles from Appalachia to Ontario, Canada, according to the Washington Post.

Drilling fluid is used to cool equipment and is not toxic, but it is often mixed with substances like clay, making it mud-like in texture and viscosity. Environmental groups worry that because of that texture, a large enough spill could essentially smother wildlife and ecosystems in the wetlands.

According to Energy Transfer Partners’ reporting to the Ohio EPA, the company spilled as much as 2 million gallons of drilling fluid on April 13, and as much as 50,000 gallons a day later and 100 miles from the first spill.


The spills occurred while Energy Transfer Partners was drilling horizontally under the sensitive water crossings — the same technique the company used to drill beneath the Missouri River while constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline argued that the construction — and subsequent shipment of oil — beneath the river could threaten the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux nation, whose lands are adjacent to the river.

In a statement, Energy Transfer Partners denied that the spills would pose a threat to the environment, saying that the drilling fluid is “a nontoxic, naturally occurring material that is safe for the environment,” and is used in common products like lotions and laundry detergents.

But the Ohio EPA countered that it was less concerned with the substance’s toxicity, and more concerned with the sheer amount, which it feared could “affect water chemistry, and potentially suffocate wildlife, fish and macroinvertebrates.”

Earlier this month, a Texas state legislature committee advanced the nomination of Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren to serve on the state’s Parks and Wildlife Commission. Warren was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in 2015 — giving the Dallas billionaire influence over how the state’s natural and cultural resources are used — but is just coming up for confirmation now. Ruth Hopkins, a Dakota/Lakota Sioux writer, said on Twitter that appointing Warren to the commission was like “giving Darth Vader a spot on the Jedi Council.”


Warren, for his part, told the Dallas Morning News that he felt personally victimized by the protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“It was hurtful,” he said. “I’m really trying hard to not personalize it, but it’s been difficult.”