Tag Archives: Department of Environmental Protection

DEP Fines Shale Company $1 Million for Landslide, Problems at Greene County Pad

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.


BREAKING: DEP Fines Range Resources $4.15 Million for Violating Environmental Regulations Consent Order; Agreement to Close 5 Washington County Impoundments

This photo of the Jon Day impoundment was taken in May by Robert Donnan, who graciously allowed me to use it here.

This photo of the Jon Day impoundment was taken in May by Robert Donnan, who graciously allowed me to use it here.

Editor’s Note: The following is from a news release put out today by the state Department of Environmental Protection. -amanda

The Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday announced it has signed a wide-ranging consent order and agreement with Range Resources for violations at six of its Washington County centralized waste water impoundments.

The consent order requires the company to pay a $4.15 million fine, the largest against an oil and gas operator in the state’s shale drilling era, close five impoundments and upgrade two other impoundments to meet heightened “next generation” standards currently under development at DEP.

“This action reaffirms the administration’s unwavering commitment to protecting Pennsylvania’s soil and water resources,” DEP Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo said. “This landmark consent order establishes a new, higher benchmark for companies to meet when designing future impoundments, which is an environmental win for Pennsylvania.”

Violations at the impoundments include various releases of contaminants, such as leaking flowback that affected soil and groundwater. To date there has been no impact on drinking water from any of these impoundments.

Under the consent order, Range Resources will immediately begin the closure of the Hopewell Township 11 (Lowry), Cecil Township 23 (Worstell), and Kearns impoundments.

Range Resources will also continue the closure of the Yeager impoundment. The company must close the Hopewell Township 12 (Bednarski) impoundment by April 1, 2015.

Additionally, the consent order also directs Range Resources to upgrade two other impoundments. The liner systems at the Chartiers Township 16 (Carol Baker) and Amwell Township 15 (Jon Day) impoundments will be completely redesigned and rebuilt to meet “next generation” standards currently under development at DEP.

When upgrading the two impoundments, Range Resources will install thicker liners than are currently required, an electrically conductive geomembrane that will allow better identification of potential leaks and a real-time leak detection system.  Range will also fully investigate and remediate any groundwater contamination caused by the previous operation of the impoundments.

Another impoundment, Mount Pleasant Township 17 (Carter), will be limited to storing only fresh water for as long as it remains in service. Range will also install a groundwater monitoring well network at the impoundment now and will perform an environmental site assessment at this impoundment once it is permanently closed.

The company will be required to report to DEP quarterly on the progress of the shutdown and remediation of the sites.

The consent order also requires Range Resources to immediately begin soil and groundwater investigations at each of the closed impoundments to determine what, if any, impact there was from their operation of the impoundments. If contamination is found, the company is required to remediate the sites.

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DEP: ‘My Bad,’ Range Resources Never Tested Soil at Leaking Impoundment for Drilling Chemicals


This photo of the Jon Day impoundment was taken by Robert Donnan, who kindly allowed me to use it.

This photo of the Jon Day impoundment was taken by Robert Donnan, who kindly allowed me to use it.

Ever since the state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed a “significant leak” at a Range Resources centralized open impoundment in Washington County that required the excavation and removal of thousands of tons of soil, both the company and the department were adamant: The only contaminant was chloride – just salt.

Poister told the Observer-Reporter earlier this month, “Inspections revealed chloride in the soil and groundwater, which was a result of Southpointe-based Range Resources storing brine water in the impoundment, but no other materials or chemicals.”

But the reason might surprise you: Chlorides have only been detected because chlorides are the only thing Range Resources had its contractor test for, a DEP spokesman confirmed Monday.

This is contrary to information DEP spokesman John Poister gave Marcellus Monitor last week. On Thursday he said that “additional chemicals associated with drilling” had been detected in the contaminated soil during a “wider array” of testing.

“This is my bad,” Poister said Monday.

He explained that he had misheard the inspector, who had indicated that only conductivity testing had been completed at the site – what he described as being the “quickest” way to determine the extent of contamination – and that DEP would require that additional testing be completed.

But Poister was clear: Those wider array of tests are to be completed only after all the soil has been cleared from the site.

“That’s the protocol, we’ve got to get the soil out of there,” he explained. “We don’t jump the steps. The chief thing is to get that soil out.”

It was not clear how Range Resources would test soil after it had been hauled from the site.

Asked if DEP would conduct its own tests on soil at the Jon Day impoundment, Poister indicated that was not the role of the regulatory agency.

“The permit states (Range Resources) is required to do the testing. I don’t know beyond that,” he explained, adding that was the way state regulations are written.

Poister said crews are using conductivity tests to determine when to stop digging at the Jon Day impoundment at Amwell Township, where 10,000 tons of contaminated soil have already been excavated and hauled away from the former frack pit. At least 5,000 more tons will likely need to be removed, he said.

No deadline has been set for Range to complete the soil removal and conduct additional testing.

“This is not something that you do overnight,” he said about the cleanup effort.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not immediately return an email seeking further information.





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DEP Issues Notices of Violation to Range Resources Over Washington County Methane Leak


The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday issued notices of violation to Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company Range Resources over a methane leak last month at a gas well in Washington County.

DEP spokesman John Poister said the “equipment failure” May 14 at the Herman Pad in Mt. Pleasant Township that spurred a precautionary evacuation of a few dozen residents resulted in the company being issued Thursday with an NOV for failure to operate a well according to regulations, and for hazardous release of a gas into the air.

He said DEP is requiring Range Resources to provide it with a full explanation of what caused the equipment failure, as well as its plan to correct the problem. Additionally, Poister said DEP is requiring the company to provide it with information about the future of the well, which he said was not operational at the time of the leak.

That information is due back to DEP by July 11, he said.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not immediately return an email seeking further information on the matter.


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Range Resources “Equipment Failure” Leads to Gas Leak, Precautionary Evacuation in Washington County

for range post

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is investigating an “equipment failure” at a Range Resources well pad in Washington County that caused a gas leak and spurred a precautionary evacuation of about 35 residents Wednesday morning.

DEP spokesman John Poister said Range Resources reported the “equipment failure” at the Herman Pad in Mt. Pleasant to Washington County 911 at 7:14 a.m. Wednesday. The local volunteer fire department and Range Resources personnel responded.

The incident was reportedly under control by 7:54 a.m. No injuries were reported.

Poister said the failure led to a release of methane into the air, and indicated that while such a release is a violation, it is too early to tell if a formal notice of violation would be issued to Range Resources.

“We do not believe there was a tremendous amount of methane released,” he said. However, DEP is taking air quality samples “just to be sure.”

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not immediately return an email seeking further information.

Editor’s Note: Photo was submitted by a resident who lives near the Herman Pad in Mt. Pleasant.

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UPDATE: 1,100 Tons of Contaminated Soil Removed Last Week From Range Resources Impoundment in Washington County

By Amanda Gillooly

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN) Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

A Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesman on Tuesday said about 1,100 tons of dirt was trucked out of a Range Resources’ centralized impoundment last week in Amwell Township, Washington County – the site of a “significant leak” in April that led to the agency issuing a Notice of Violation to the Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company.
DEP spokesman John Poister said it is likely that 2,100 tons of contaminated soil will ultimately need to be removed from the site.

“It’s a mountain of soil,” he said.

He confirmed that the leak is “serious enough” that a DEP inspector has been on scene at the John Day impoundment nearly every day.

“This is something we are taking very seriously,” he said, adding that DEP is committed to getting to the bottom of why the impoundment’s leak detection system didn’t work.

“This is a case where it failed miserably,” Poister said of the leak detection system. “Our concern is how long did this leak go unnoticed? We’re upset about this – the extent of the leak and why it wasn’t spotted earlier.”

He added it was “obvious to our people that this is not a small thing.”

Right now crews at the John Day impoundment are working to ensure tarps are secured to keep rain water out, and he said Range Resources was dealing with runoff issues Tuesday.

Poister said the first step in the remediation process is the removal and replacement of contaminated soil.

No timeline was available for the completion of that step, however. Poister said rain has slowed progress of work at the site.

A soil analysis was not yet available on Tuesday, but Poister confirmed that initial water quality tests indicated that chloride – or salt –  is the primary contaminant.

“Salt is very damaging,” Poister explained.

The soil is being transported out of the site using an existing Form U. The company responsible for the cleanup efforts, Weavertown Environmental, is currently in the process of obtaining a new Form U, he said.

DEP issued a notice of violation to Range Resources, and Poister said a civil penalty is possible, too. That, though, is be the final step in the process.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not immediately return an email seeking further information for this story.

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Container Marked “Radioactive” at Range Resources Impoundment in Washington Co. Spurs Calls To DEP, Inspector Investigating


By Amanda Gillooly

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday confirmed that an inspector had been called to a centralized impoundment in Washington County operated by Range Resources after residents complained about unusual activity there.

DEP spokesman John Poister said there was “material that raised some concern” at the Carter impoundment in Mt. Pleasant Township, and that the department was awaiting the results of soil characterization tests that Range Resources is conducting.

He said there was an issue with the weir system at the impoundment, which he said is used to filter solids out of water used in the fracking process.

Residents who live near the impoundment became concerned when they saw blue containers at the impoundment with stamps reading DOT SP 11406. An Internet search shows that these containers are used to transport radioactive waste.

Asked if those containers were actively being used by Range Resources to remove and transport radioactive waste, Poister said he did not know, but that the company would be required to have a permit known as a Form U in order to do so.

“I have not seen a Form U,” he said.

Poister said it was “premature” to draw conclusions until the soil characterization tests were completed. He said the results would likely be available Friday afternoon.

He also confirmed that DEP’s “radiation people are not involved,” adding that the department’s oil and gas folks were handling the issue.

“We have to wait and see what turns up,” Poister said.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not immediately return an email Thursday seeking further details.

Editor’s Note: Photos of the container and impoundment were submitted.

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PA State Rep Introduces Law Requiring Full Disclosure of Fracking Chemicals, Mandatory Air Quality Monitoring

PA state Rep. Jesse White D, Cecil, recently introduced the legislation.

PA state Rep. Jesse White D, Cecil, recently introduced the legislation.

By Amanda Gillooly

A Pennsylvania state representative announced this week that he has introduced two new bills in the state House that he said would help further promote responsible Marcellus Shale drilling operations in local communities.

House Bill 1721, the “Fair Frac Disclosure Act,” would mandate the full disclosure of all chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, including the disclosure of compounds labeled as “proprietary” by drilling company vendors and subcontractors.

White said that when companies dump drilling waste water from multiple sites into open-air waste water impoundments, chemicals from the fracking process can mix, react and release into the air or into groundwater if the impoundments leak.

White said that the Fair Frac Disclosure Act would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to maintain a public database of all compounds used by an applicant before a permit could be issued, thus providing transparency and accountability to Pennsylvania residents.

“Local residents who live near industrial drilling operations at the very least deserve to know what chemicals are being put into the air and water as part of the fracking process,” said White, D-Allegheny/Beaver/Washington. “While I applaud the recent news of hydraulic fracturing supplier Baker Hughes deciding to disclose all of its chemicals, not all companies are following suit. This legislation would simply add another layer of protection for our local communities.”

White’s second bill, House Bill 2172, would mandate that air-quality monitoring systems be placed near all natural-gas compressor stations, processing plants and centralized waste water impoundments.

Centralized impoundments have become a controversial issue in western Pennsylvania, with news earlier this month that there was a “significant leak” at a Range Resources pit in Amwell Township, Washington County. The DEP said hundreds of tons of contaminated soil has already been removed, and a source says thousands of tons more may follow suit. The incident spurred the DEP to issue notices of violation to the Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company.

Under this bill, White said such monitoring systems would be required at all current and future sites as a condition of their permitting. The legislation would require that all air-quality levels recorded by monitoring systems be made publicly accessible through a real-time display posted on the Internet.

White pointed to a recent Associated Press report on preliminary data from the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project regarding cases in which residents might have experienced problems as a result of living in close proximity to natural gas drilling operations. To date, the project has discovered 27 cases in which residents developed symptoms and illnesses after nearby operations began.

Natural gas drilling in our region is here and here to stay, but that does not mean we should ignore simple and commonsense practices that would promote more transparency and provide for honest, fact-based debate,” White said. “When dealing with the health and well-being of our local communities and residents, the public should have access to the scientific facts and figures surrounding drilling in an unfiltered way, and my legislation offers that – nothing more, nothing less.”


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Range Resources Issued Notice of Violation Over “Significant Leak” at Washington Co. Impoundment

By Amanda Gillooly

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN) Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a Notice of Violation on Friday to Range Resources over what it is calling a “significant leak” at a Washington County impoundment.

DEP spokesman John Poister said the Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company was cited under the Clean Streams Act for failure to contain pollutants and failure to contain production fluids.

He said a civil penalty has not yet been assessed, and added that is the final step in the process of issuing a Notice of Violation.

“We are waiting for completion of the cleanup,” Poister said.

Asked how long the cleanup would take, he said, “I don’t know right now.”

Poister also clarified information issued last week by the department regarding contaminated soil that has been trucked out of the John Day impoundment.

He said Range Resources has been trucking 128 tons of contaminated soil out of the Amwell Township impoundment and into three area landfills – the Arden landfill in Chartiers, the Imperial landfill and the Territa landfill in Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County.

Last week, Poister said the soil was being taken solely to the Arden landfill.

Last week the DEP also indicated that the old permit, also known as a Form U, was being used until the driller could obtain a new one.

On Monday, Poister said that the company cleaning up the leak, Weavertown Environmental, was actually applying for the new permit.

That permit, Poister said, was still pending.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not return an email seeking more information.

Editor’s Note: The information in this story reflects a phone conversation with Poister at 11 a.m. Monday.



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Range Resources Hauling Contaminated Soil to Washington Co. Landfill Using Old Permit, Thousands of Tons More Need Removed

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN) Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

By Amanda Gillooly

More than 500 tons of contaminated soil has already been trucked out of the John Day impoundment in Washington County and into at least one area landfill on an old permit, the state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed late last week.

Sources have said the incident is worse than previously reported in the media, and that thousands of tons of contaminated soil still need to be removed.

DEP spokesman John Poister on Tuesday (April 22) said Range Resources had “removed” 500 tons of soil from the impoundment and had been “stockpiling” it in a contained, secure area locatedat the Amwell Township site. He added the company was using vacuum trucks to ensure any dirt that escaped from the area would be immediately removed.

But Wednesday night, sources told Marcellus Monitor that Range had actually been trucking the soil to area landfills – and that they had seen as many as five tri-axle trucks hauling material out of the impoundment for days.

Reached Thursday (April 24) for clarification on where the soil was being stored or transported, Poister reversed the DEP’s previous statement, saying, “We know now” the company had, in fact, been transporting the soil off site.

He said the soil was trucked to the Arden landfill in Chartiers Township, Washington County.

Poister said it was legal for the Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company to use a previous permit – called a Form U – because it was issued earlier this year for the same site.

However, that permit only allowed the company to remove about 100 tons of soil a day.

Poister said Range Resources has applied for a new permit, which would allow them to haul out more soil from the John Day impoundment in Washington County.

While the DEP spokesman could provide no further details related to the pending Form U permit, a source has said it could allow Range Resources to haul out as many as 800 tons of soil each day.

A copy of the old Form U, which contains analysis of the contaminated soil previously permitted to be hauled from the pit to area landfills, was not immediately available. Marcellus Monitor is working to obtain a copy, as well as the soil analysis Range Resources would have had to have submitted in order to obtain the former permit.

Asked if by using the old permit, Range Resources was asserting that the soil effected by the most recent leak contains the same chemicals as the soil removed during the previous incident, Poister said, “I don’t know. I am waiting to get clarification on that.”

While no further information on the permit or the amount of soil needed to be removed from the site was available from DEP, a source told Marcellus Monitor that “thousands” more tons would need to be removed.

While the DEP and Range Resources director of corporate communications Matt Pitzarella has said the leak essentially consisted of “salt water,” the department is still awaiting the a soil analysis from the company, Poister said Thursday afternoon.

The DEP spokesman on Wednesday added that Range Resources had exhausted the amount of tons it was permitted to remove from the site, which necessitated the new permit.

Sources, though, said they observed trucks hauling material out of the impoundment throughout last week – including Thursday and as recently as this Monday morning.

Asked if Range was permitted to haul additional soil out of the impoundment given that DEP indicated the company had “exhausted” the former permit, Poister said, “I don’t know if they shipped” all of the stockpiled soil.

Poister also confirmed last week that Range Resources – which has two crews working at the John Day impoundment, one to remove soil and the other to place plastic tarps over the impoundment to prevent rainwater from pushing what they have said is salt water further into the ground – was having difficulty getting the plastic to stay put.

While he said the issue was under control as of last week, sources say the plastic could be seen blowing into the yards of neighboring farms – and that the plastic tarps remain an issue this week, as well.

It was still unclear when the DEP would issue a notice of violation to Range Resources, although Poister said Thursday it was still in the process of being drawn up.

Centralized impoundments are used to store millions of gallons of water used during the hydraulic fracturing process. Range Resources impoundments in Washington County have been the subject of both controversy and national headlines this past year – mostly over questions about what exactly is in the water stored at the sites.

State Impact reported that company executives testified in a civil court case that they do not know what chemicals they are using in the fracking process. Critics have long maintained that impoundments, sometimes called frack pits, are not an industry best practice, and have pushed for safer storage methods, such as closed-loop systems.

Pitzarella did not immediately return emails seeking further information.

Editor’s Note: Poister said Monday morning that there was no new information on the leak or cleanup efforts at the John Day impoundment in Amwell Township.

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