After damaging historic property and wetlands, pipeline CEO is ‘baffled’ by criticism

Democratic lawmakers are asking for an investigation into another one of Warren’s pipelines.

Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren. CREDIT: AP Photo/ John L. Mone
Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren. CREDIT: AP Photo/ John L. Mone

Kelcy Warren, Texas billionaire and CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, simply does not understand why people would be opposed to his pipeline projects.

In a letter sent to lawmakers on Monday, Warren said he was “baffled” by allegations that the Rover Pipeline, an Energy Transfer Partners project that would stretch from southwest Pennsylvania to Michigan, had violated federal regulations in constructing the pipeline.

Last week, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) sent a letter to the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC), requesting that the agency investigate “misstatements” made by Energy Transfer Partners during the construction of the Rover Pipeline. Cantwell and Pallone claimed that the company knowingly destroyed a historic house in Ohio near the planned pipeline route, despite assuring regulators that it would avoid damaging the property.

Warren said that such an investigation would be “both unprecedented and unnecessary.”

In June, Rover Pipeline LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, agreed to pay $1.5 million annually for five years to the Ohio History Connection Foundation to compensate for damages to historic properties while constructing the pipeline.

The historic homes weren’t the only damages sustained during Rover’s construction: In April, the construction on the pipeline discharged more than two million gallons of clay-like drilling waste water in Ohio, damaging pristine wetlands. A spokesperson for the Ohio EPA told ThinkProgress at the time that the wetlands would not recover “for decades.” The state has since fined the company $430,000.

According to Reuters, West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection recently ordered some construction on the Rover Pipeline in the state to stop, citing environmental violations.

The Rover Pipeline is one of the largest proposed pipelines in the Appalachian region, and would have an annual carbon footprint equivalent to that of 42 coal-fired power plants.

Warren has a history of complaining publicly about opposition to his projects. Talking to the Dallas Morning News in January, he said that 2016 had been the “toughest year of his career” because of low oil prices and prolonged opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Warren also told the Dallas Morning News that protesters “assassinated the company and me.”

In late 2016, the Obama administration halted construction on the pipeline while ordering the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full environmental review of the project. By that time, thousands of protesters had gathered near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota in an attempt to stop construction of the project, arguing that pipeline crossing under the Missouri River posed a direct threat to the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

In January, President Donald Trump used executive authority to revive the pipeline, ordering the Army Corps of Engineers to review and approve the permit needed for the pipeline to cross beneath the river. Warren was a big financial backer of Trump’s campaign, donating more than $100,000 to his presidential bid. And Trump himself owned between $15,000 and $50,000 worth of stock in Energy Transfer Partners, though he claims to have divested before assuming office.

Following Trump’s order for expedited approval, the Dakota Access Pipeline became operational in June, and has already suffered three small leaks.