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Pennsylvania DEP Fines Ultra $40K for Illegal Transfer Station

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has levied a $40,000 fine on an Ultra Petroleum Corp. subsidiary for several violations from 2011, including operating an illegal transfer station from a Marcellus Shale well pad in Potter County.

According to the DEP, inspectors visited Ultra Resources Inc.'s Fowler well pad in West Branch Township in February 2011 and found 47 mobile storage tanks on site that were holding more than 760,000 gallons of raw flowback fluid. The Houston-based company was reportedly using the fluid for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations at other sites.

"This kind of activity requires a residual waste transfer station permit from the department," Jennifer Means, the agency's manager for the east region oil and gas program, said. "Because no wells were ever drilled at this site, and because the well permits actually expired while this activity was taking place, we determined that Ultra never intended to use the stored fluid for drilling at this site."

The DEP said subsequent inspections of the Fowler site conducted in March and July 2011 found additional violations of the state's Oil and Gas Act, including the failure to post well permit numbers. The agency said it issued a notice of violation (NOV) to Ultra in late July but then found more violations at Fowler in August 2011, including flowback fluids around the mobile tanks and on the containment liner, failure to properly stabilize several areas of the well pad and access road, and improper construction of a sediment basin.

Ultra submitted a report to the DEP in early October documenting the corrective measures it took at Fowler. The DEP said its inspectors visited Fowler in November and confirmed that all of the violations had been corrected.

Kelly Whitley, a spokesperson for Ultra, told NGI's Shale Daily on Monday that the company declined to comment.

Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future filed a lawsuit against Ultra Resources in July 2011, alleging that its facilities in the Marshlands Play -- including those in West Branch Township -- violate the federal Clean Air Act and state regulations (see Shale Daily, July 26, 2011). Specifically, the environmental group says Ultra does not have all of the necessary permits for nitrogen oxide emissions.

The case, in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, is Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future v. Ultra Resources Inc. (Case No. 4:11-CV-01360-RDM).

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