The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has entered into a $1.75 million dollar settlement agreement with Southpointe-based Range Resources for failure to keep proper water withdrawal records and for exceeding the amount of water withdrawn under an approved DEP Water Management Plan.
Under the state’s Oil and Gas Act, Range was required to have the approved Water Management Plan covering the company’s withdrawal of water from state waterways for use in natural gas drilling. DEP approved Range’s WMP in July 2009.
The company did not adhere to their plan. From July 2009 to February 2014, Range did not record daily maximum water withdrawal and instantaneous maximum withdrawal rates, as required.
Under their WMP, Range was also required to report water withdrawal rates electronically to the Department’s Water Use Database System. The information provided by the company was often different than or not supported by existing records.
The company has since changed its withdrawal, monitoring and reporting practices so that they meet the requirements of its WMP and the law. The company has also corrected the information previously submitted to WUDS.
According to the terms of the settlement, Range will pay a fine of $800,000 and will fund almost $950,000 toward the rehabilitation, expansion, and operation of the Hamilton Abandoned Mine Treatment System in Findlay Township, Allegheny County. The project will be implemented through a public-private partnership consisting of the Raccoon Creek Watershed Association, the Independence Conservancy, Penn’s Corner Conservancy Charitable Trust, Washington and Allegheny County Conservation Districts, two local landowners, and BioMost, Inc.
This passive mine water treatment system was originally constructed in 2003 as part of an effort to lessen the impact of mine drainage in the Raccoon Creek Watershed. It functioned successfully for a number of years until access to the system was restricted by a property owner. The system subsequently fell into disrepair and is now in need of renovation and expansion. The property now has a new owner and access to the system has been re-established. Range will pay $758,089 for the rehabilitation and expansion of the system and an additional $191,000 toward long-term operation and maintenance of the system.
“Protection of our natural resources is a key component of DEP’s mission.” John Ryder, DEP’s Director of Oil and Gas Operations said. “This innovative agreement does that directly by providing support for a local project that will improve our state’s waterways without the use of additional public funding.”
Range proposed the project as part of the settlement discussions with DEP and has pledged to sign an Implementation Agreement for the project that includes an outline of the scope of the project, a commitment by the conservation district to complete the project and a plan for submitting progress reports to DEP.
DEP approved the Hamilton AMD project in lieu of receiving additional penalties because the project will provide a substantial benefit to public health and the environment. The project also has strong local support.
Outside of this agreement, the project is not something that Range is otherwise legally required to do and Range may not deduct any costs incurred in connection with implementation of the project for any tax purposes.