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Pennsylvania DEP Fines Catalyst $185K for Violations

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said Wednesday Catalyst Energy Inc. has been fined $185,000 and faces new restrictions after several incidents involving non-Marcellus Shale oil and natural gas wells in three northwestern counties.

"Catalyst has paid the penalty and is working under a negotiated timetable to rectify these violations," DEP Northwest Regional Director Kelly Burch said. "The company must also demonstrate it is in total compliance before drilling or completing more wells."

The violations occurred in Forest, McKean and Warren counties. The DEP said that through the end of 2012, the Pittsburgh-based company must get the department's permission before developing or drilling new wells, or before performing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at existing wells. The agency said it would authorize those activities if Catalyst was found to be in compliance with all applicable laws at the site.

The DEP asserts that in 2010 Catalyst's drilling activities in the Yellow Hammer area of Hickory Township, which is in Forest County, contaminated 14 water supplies (see Shale Daily, April 5, 2011). The company has since restored or replaced water supplies at six wells and has 60 days to complete the remaining eight wells.

Inspectors also reported erosion and sediment control violations from December 2009 through November 2011 at well sites in Hickory and Kingsley townships, both in Forest County. The DEP said sediment from the Warrant 5211 well in Hickory Township had entered a nearby creek, Lick Run, on Nov. 14, 2011. The agency issued a field order suspending construction at the site, but Catalyst violated the order the next day. The DEP said the company has since installed sufficient sediment controls at the Warrant well.

Other penalties were assessed for spill and discharge violations from February 2010 through November 2011 at well sites in Forest, McKean and Warren counties. The DEP said the company had resolved all of these violations.

According to the DEP, Catalyst must also plug 13 abandoned wells left behind by an operator it acquired in 2007. Regulators said that, to date, the company has plugged 103 wells that were abandoned by the former operator.

Catalyst declined to comment about the fine or the new restrictions.

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