The state Department of Environmental Protection on Monday announced that it has fined Vantage Energy Appalachia LLC nearly $1 million for more than a dozen violation of environmental regulations stemming from a landslide and illegal disposal at its Porter Street well pad in Franklin Township, Greene County.
On Jan. 16, 2014, DEP learned that a landslide occurred at the well pad the previous day. DEP said inspectors immediately responded and noted that the slide impacted the side of the well pad and had dropped about 40 feet down slope to where it encroached upon two streams.
The slide continued to grow substantially and eventually covered the two streams.
DEP threatened to order a shutdown of all activity on the well pad. In response, the company on March 28 – more than two months later – agreed to voluntarily stop drilling operations and to make interim action to prevent further movement of the slide. DEP cited the company for numerous violations of the state’s Oil and Gas Act and Clean Streams Law.
On July 14, Elite Well Services, a Vantage contractor, dumped two truckloads (about 200 barrels) of drilling wastewater down the side of the well pad where the interim stabilization activities were occurring.
The wastewater impacted the landslide area being restored and ended up in the streams originally impacted by the slide. DEP again cited the company for further violations of various environmental statutes including the Oil and Gas Act.
On July 21, the company submitted a notice of its intent to remediate the soils, surface water and groundwater impacted by release of the wastewater. But, even as they began those efforts, DEP learned that Vantage had constructed a new access road along the streams impacted by the slide and the waste discharge. The construction was not authorized under the company’s erosion and sediment permit. The company was cited again.
On December 16, Vantage and DEP signed the Consent Order and Agreement (COA) that establishes enforceable milestones for Vantage to correct the violations at the well site and requires the full restoration of impacted streams and wetlands, permanent stabilization of the well pad, and remediation of the soils, surface water and groundwater impacted by the illegal disposal of the wastewater.
“These violations resulted in significant damage to our natural resources and this action is in direct response to the seriousness of the violations,” John Ryder, Director of District Oil and Gas Operations for DEP said. “To its credit, Vantage has begun to make a genuine effort to better manage and operate their well sites. The company has hired an independent consultant to conduct an environmental audit of all of their well sites in Pennsylvania and the company is now fully cooperating with DEP.”
By signing the COA, the company also agreed to the $999,900 fine, one of the largest imposed on a driller by DEP this year. The COA also stipulates further penalties if project deadlines are not met. As part of the agreement, the company will also provide written “progress reports” detailing the actions taken during each period to comply with the requirements of the COA. The company must complete all the work on the site, meeting all DEP regulations, by Dec. 31, 2015.