The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has dropped its efforts to collect what could have been a record fine of $8.9 million from Range Resources Corp. for what the agency thought was a leaking natural gas well in Lycoming County.

Earlier this month, DEP told Range it would no longer pursue the fine. The company then dropped its appeal with the Environmental Hearing Board, which last week dismissed it. The DEP ultimately dropped the proposed fine after it found that naturally-occurring methane had caused contamination of several water wells in the area. DEP believes a faulty concrete job on the well still needs to be repaired.

DEP proposed the fine in June 2015, confirming that it was the highest proposed in the state’s shale gas era (see Shale Daily, June 16, 2015). DEP said the well in question was drilled in early 2011 and stimulated later that year.

An investigation, DEP said at the time, revealed that methane contaminated private water wells and a nearby stream. The agency issued a notice of violation in September 2013, but the issue was never resolved. Last May, DEP ordered the company to submit a plan to fix the well, but said what Range submitted was inadequate.

Range has already given an analysis to the DEP to show that the methane in the wells did not come from its operations. DEP continues to maintain that the company violated the Clean Streams Law and Oil and Gas Act, but Range has appealed that claim, saying the agency has failed to prove that any violations were committed. The company said it was still working with DEP to investigate and resolve the matter.

Prior to the proposed fine, Range, one of the state’s leading producers, had paid the state’s highest shale fine of $4.15 million in 2014 for a series of violations at six of its water impoundments in Southwest Pennsylvania (see Shale Daily, Sept. 19, 2014). EQT Corp. is currently fighting a proposed $4.5 million fine for a 2012 impoundment leak in Tioga County (see Shale Daily, Nov. 25, 2015).