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Pennsylvania DEP Fines NFG Unit $250K for Pipeline Violations

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has levied a $250,000 fine against a pipeline company for more than a dozen construction violations that occurred over a seven-month period in Lycoming County, in the heart of the Marcellus Shale.

DEP said Wednesday it fined National Fuel Gas Midstream Trout Run LLC (NFG Midstream), a unit of National Fuel Gas Co., for multiple violations of the state's Clean Streams Law and other agency regulations that resulted from construction of the Trout Run Gathering System across five municipalities in Lycoming (see Shale Daily, June 18, 2012).

John Ryder, DEP director of district oil and gas operations, said inspectors "documented continuing violations at multiple locations during a seven-month period. NFG's failure to implement and maintain erosion and sediment control best management practices resulted in several sediment discharges into unnamed tributaries to Mill Creek and Lycoming Creek, and an exceptional value wetland."

DEP said its investigation began in October 2011 after inspectors discovered sediment along a portion of Pennsylvania Route 973, with "no temporary stabilization and ineffective best management practices used to control erosion and sedimentation issues."

According to DEP, its inspectors then conducted periodic visits to the construction site of the 16-mile gathering system. NFG Midstream was issued 13 notices of violation (NOV), including 12 for "sediment discharges to waters of the commonwealth, many of which are classified as exceptional value or high quality waterways."

State regulators said a landslide on the company's right-of-way above Ringler Road in Lewis Township caused a temporary closure of the road. Sediment continued to be discharged into an unnamed tributary of Lycoming Creek below the site of the landslide, with the last discharge taking place on Jan. 18, 2012.

"While the sediment discharges did impact the waterways, the department did not document any impact to fish or other aquatic life from any of the violations," DEP said. "NFG has instituted additional environmental protocols since this time and has addressed the environmental issues identified on this project."

DEP said NFG paid the penalty in full on Sept. 18.

The Trout Run Gathering System traverses Lycoming's Gamble, Hepburn, Lewis, Loyalsock and McIntyre townships. It begins at a well pad in McIntyre operated by Seneca Resources Corp., another National Fuel subsidiary, and ends at an interconnection in Loyalsock with Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC (Transco).

In June 2012, National Fuel said the Trout Run system would comprise 25 miles of mostly 20-inch diameter high-pressure pipeline, associated facilities and an interconnection with Transco. Trout Run is designed to serve Marcellus producers, anchored by Seneca, with capacity exceeding 450 MMcf/d. The company added that additional facilities and gathering lines would be constructed as throughput increases.

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