The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has fined Vantage Energy Inc. nearly $1 million -- one of the largest fines imposed this year on a shale driller in the state -- for violations that stemmed from a January landslide at a well pad in Greene County.
DEP said Monday that subsidiary Vantage Energy Appalachia LLC signed a consent order and agreement earlier this month to pay $999,900, take corrective actions that come with deadlines and file progress reports with the agency.
In January, DEP said it learned that a landslide had occurred at the company's Porter Street well pad in Franklin Township. When inspectors responded, the agency said that the slide had impacted the side of the well pad and threatened two nearby streams. According to DEP, the landslide continued to grow and eventually covered those waterways.
"These violations resulted in significant damage to our natural resources and this action is in direct response to the seriousness of the violations," said DEP Director of District Oil and Gas Operations John Ryder.
Making matters worse, after Vantage had agreed to voluntarily stop drilling operations and take action to prevent the landslide from growing worse, the agency said a subcontractor, Elite Well Services, dumped two truckloads of drilling wastewater down the side of the well pad during remediation operations, impacting the streams further.
"To its credit, Vantage has begun to make a genuine effort to better manage and operate their well sites," Ryder said. "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."
The company said in a statement that it is “deeply committed to across-the-board operational excellence, transparency and environmental compliance.” Vantage said some of the violations for which it was cited were related to legacy development projects that it acquired, adding that it had voluntarily entered into the consent order and agreement to fix problems so they don’t happen again.
In addition to assets in Texas and Utah, privately-owned Vantage, which is backed by Quantum Energy Partners, Riverstone Holdings and Lime Rock Partners, has 48,000 net acres in Pennsylvania, all located in Greene County. The Colorado-based company scrapped plans for an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in September, citing adverse market conditions (see Shale Daily, Sept. 25; Sept. 15).
The company has agreed to fully restore impacted waterways, wetlands and soils, and faces additional penalties if it does not complete those tasks by deadlines set forth by the DEP. The fine was one of the largest issued this year, behind one in September against Range Resources Corp. for $4.15 million related to a series of violations at water impoundments operated by that company in southwest Pennsylvania (see Shale Daily, Sept. 19).