PGE fined $125,500 for well-site violations

Warren-based Pennsylvania General Energy Co. (PGE) has been fined $125,500 by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for violations dating back more than a year.

The fines, for separate sets of violations occurring in 2011 and 2012, occurred at PGE’s operations in Cummins and Watson townships in Lycoming County.

The violations both concern the Pine Creek watershed.

“The agency’s oil and gas program assessed penalties for three separate spills in January 2012 at a Pennsylvania General Energy wellpad in Cummins Township, and for excessive sediment discharges to Pine Creek and related violations in Watson Township between May and September 2011,” DEP Director of District Oil and Gas Operations John Ryder said in a press release last Friday.

According to the release, hydraulic fracturing operations at PGE’s 729-C well pad resulted in two brine spills from blender units and one diesel fuel spill. DEP estimates a total of 8,200 gallons of brine and approximately 89 gallons of diesel fuel were spilled between Jan. 6 and 15, 2012.

According to a Feb. 3 article in The Express of Lock Haven concerning the spills:

“DEP was notified by PGE on Jan. 6 of a 1,000- to 2,000-gallon spill of brine from a blender tank”,

“DEP was notified by PGE on Jan. 14 of an 89-gallon diesel spill on the pad”,

“DEP was notified by PGE on Jan. 16 of another brine spill on the pad later estimated to be about 4,200 gallons.”

“Our oil and gas program staff investigated all three of these spills and met with PGE, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and cleanup contractor Northridge Group to discuss how the remediation would proceed,” Dan Spadoni with DEP told The Express at the time. “Northridge finished excavating the impacted soil in the diesel spill area on Jan. 30 and collected confirmation samples. They began excavating impacted soil in the brine spill locations on Jan. 31.”

“Pennsylvania General Energy personnel and on-location contractors responded to three incidents at the company’s 729C drilling location during the month of January involving small amounts of diesel fuel that had leaked as a result of a faulty fuel filter on a truck, and brine water that was being used to prevent freezing in water lines,” according to a PGE statement issued Feb. 2, 2012. “All of these spills were contained on the drilling pad, and were addressed according to best management practices. Each was also reported to the appropriate state agencies. PGE is continuing to work in coordination and cooperation with these agencies to ensure these incidents are resolved properly.”

DEP sent PGE notice of violation letters on Jan. 24 and 25, 2012.

“The well pad is located within the high-quality Pin Creek watershed, with the closest stream being an unnamed tributary to Ramsey Run. There was no evidence that any of the spills impacted the unnamed tributary,” DEP’s Friday release said. “DEP issued three notices of violation to PGE for violations of the Oil and Gas Act, Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Streams Law and state environmental regulations. In order to properly remediate the three spills, PGE excavated more than 3,300 tons of contaminated soil and submitted a corrective action final report that DEP reviewed and approved in July 2012.”

The discharge violations in 2011 related to the installation of a temporary limestone cofferdam in Pine Creek. DEP issued water obstruction and encroachment permits for the project, intended to construct a water intake structure, but PGE, “failed to adhere to the permit requirements” according to the Friday release.

“PGE failed to implement and maintain erosion and sediment control best management practices, which resulted in several excessive sediment discharges during the four-month construction period into Pine Creek, which is a high-quality trout-stocked fishery,” the Friday release added.

A notice of violation for the 2011 incident was issued by DEP on May 20, 2011 and cited the Clean Streams Law and regulations addressing waterway encroachments and earth disturbances.

“Following multiple inspections during the summer months,” the Friday release continued. “An inspection in late Sept. 2011 revealed that all previous violations had been properly corrected. In Nov. 2011, DEP issued an amendment to PGE’s existing erosion and sediment control permit for a nearby water line to also include the intake structure.”

A press release from PGE on Tuesday addressed the fine.

“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 release 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.

“PGE apologizes for any inconvenience that may have been experienced by people in the community.”