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Pennsylvania DEP Fines Driller for Separate Incidents

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that it has levied a $125,000 fine against a driller, Pennsylvania General Energy Co. LLC (PGE), for two separate incidents in Lycoming County.

According to the DEP, the first incident occurred between Jan. 6 and Jan. 15, 2012, when Warren, PA-based PGE had two brine spills from blender units and one diesel fuel spill at the company's COP Tract No. 729-C well pad in Cummings Township. The agency estimated that 8,200 gallons of brine and 89 gallons of diesel fuel were spilled.

In a written statement, the DEP said the well pad is near an unnamed tributary of Ramsey Run, which is part of the high-quality, trout-stocked Pine Creek watershed. There was no evidence that any of the brine or diesel fuel spilled at the well pad made it into waterways.

PGE received notices of violation (NOV) for the Oil and Gas Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, the Clean Streams Law and other state environmental regulations.

The DEP said that PGE remediated the site by excavating more than 3,300 tons of contaminated soil. The company then submitted a corrective action final report to the agency, which it reviewed and approved in July 2012.

The second incident occurred in 2011, when PGE installed a temporary limestone cofferdam during the construction of a water intake structure. Although the DEP had issued the company a Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permit for the project, PGE failed to meet the permit requirements.

The DEP said the company had also failed to implement and maintain best practices for erosion and sediment control, causing several excessive sediment discharges during the four-month construction period into Pine Creek. The agency issued PGE an NOV on May 20, 2011, for violating the Clean Streams Law and other state environmental regulations pertaining to waterway encroachments and earth disturbances.

Inspectors visited the site in the summer of 2011, and determined the violations had been corrected by that September. The DEP then amended the company's permits to include the new water intake structure.

On Monday, PGE issued a statement and an apology for the incidents.

"PGE worked diligently with DEP representatives and other regulatory agencies involved in these incidents to ensure actions were taken to mitigate the potential for off-site environmental impacts," the company said. "The spills that took place on PGE's drilling location were contained and cleaned up immediately after their discovery.

"The company also took corrective actions requested by the state after record rainfall caused extremely high stream flows on Pine Creek and created construction challenges at our water intake facility. The completion of the water intake facility, however, has allowed PGE to eliminate significant truck traffic from local roads and reduce other potential environmental impacts in the area."

According to DEP's Office of Oil and Gas Compliance, inspectors found violations at all of the 52 inspections they did at 39 PGE wells since Jan. 1, 2011. The company has 160 active horizontal gas wells in the state, 95 of which are in Cummings Township and another 20 wells are in Lycoming's McHenry Township.

DEP records show that PGE also has 30 active horizontal gas wells in Potter County, 11 in McKean County, two in Forest County and one each in Huntingdon and Warren counties.

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