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EPA Fines Small Appalachian Gas Processor For Failing to Prevent Possible Spills

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a settlement with a small natural gas processing company for operations in Northern Pennsylvania and Southwest West Virginia, after regulators determined that it had violated federal law for failing to safeguard against leaks and spills.

Under the settlement, Elkhorn Investments LLC and Elkhorn Gas Processing LLC have agreed to pay $50,221 for violations of the Clean Air Act and the General Duty Clause, which require risk management planning and make owners and operators responsible for facilities that handle regulated hazardous substances.

An EPA spokeswoman said the facilities posed high risks for employees and local communities and said that while there were no spills or dangerous incidents at them, the law requires preventative measures that were not in place, but have since been complied with.

The EPA discovered violations at six of Elkhorn's facilities, of which five are located in McKean and Warren counties, PA, and another in Putnam County, WV. EPA cited the company for failing to construct drainage and spill containment areas; proper venting on waste oil tanks; a lack of warning systems at two facilities to notify employees of gas releases or fires, and for not protecting tanks from vehicles. The company has since completed those measures and revised its emergency response plans as required by the settlement.

Unlike the Appalachian Basin's larger midstream companies, which process hundreds of millions of cubic feet of natural gas per day, Elkhorn operates refrigerated gas processing plants and related fractionation facilities with capacities of 6-10.5 MMcf/d in areas that are home to more conventional natural gas development. It is headquartered in Oklahoma and also has operations in Wyoming.

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