DEP Fines Range Resources $4.15 Million For Violating Environmental Regulations
The Department of Environmental Protection Thursday announced it has signed a wide-ranging consent order and agreement with Range Resources for violations at six of its Washington County impoundments.
The consent order requires the company to pay a $4.15 million fine, the largest against an oil and gas operator in the state’s shale drilling era, close five impoundments and upgrade two other impoundments to meet heightened “next generation” standards currently under development at DEP.
“This action reaffirms the administration’s unwavering commitment to protecting Pennsylvania’s soil and water resources,” DEP Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo said. “This landmark consent order establishes a new, higher benchmark for companies to meet when designing future impoundments, which is an environmental win for Pennsylvania.”
Violations at the impoundments include various releases of contaminants, such as leaking flowback that affected soil and groundwater. To date there has been no impact on drinking water from any of these impoundments.
Under the consent order, Range Resources will immediately begin the closure of the Hopewell Township 11 (Lowry), Cecil Township 23 (Worstell), and Kearns impoundments. Range Resources will also continue the closure of the Yeager impoundment. The company must close the Hopewell Township 12 (Bednarski) impoundment by April 1, 2015.
Additionally, the consent order also directs Range Resources to upgrade two other impoundments. The liner systems at the Chartiers Township 16 (Carol Baker) and Amwell Township 15 (Jon Day) impoundments will be completely redesigned and rebuilt to meet “next generation” standards currently under development at DEP.
When upgrading the two impoundments, Range Resources will install thicker liners than are currently required, an electrically conductive geomembrane that will allow better identification of potential leaks and a real-time leak detection system.
Range will also fully investigate and remediate any groundwater contamination caused by the previous operation of the impoundments.
Another impoundment, Mount Pleasant Township 17 (Carter), will be limited to storing only fresh water for as long as it remains in service. Range will also install a groundwater monitoring well network at the impoundment now and will perform an environmental site assessment at this impoundment once it is permanently closed.
The company will be required to report to DEP quarterly on the progress of the shutdown and remediation of the sites.
The consent order also requires Range Resources to immediately begin soil and groundwater investigations at each of the closed impoundments to determine what, if any, impact there was from their operation of the impoundments. If contamination is found, the company is required to remediate the sites.
For more information, call 412-442-4000.
Range Resources Statement
Range Resources issued this statement in response to DEP’s enforcement action Thursday--
Appalachia, LLC pioneered large scale water recycling for shale gas development in Pennsylvania in 2009. Pennsylvania now leads the nation in shale water recycling and reuse.
Over the years several iterations of technologies and best practices have been developed and employed as part of the Company’s water management plan, including the use of impoundments specifically engineered to manage water.
Range discovered elevated levels of chlorides, or salt, at some older facilities in Washington County, Pennsylvania. Further investigations found elevated chlorides in some groundwater monitoring systems at the impoundments and in the soil beneath some impoundment liner systems, due to damage to the liner and some minor surface spills.
Both Range’s and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) monitoring and testing have reconfirmed that there have been no impacts on drinking water supplies.
Again, while there have been no impacts on drinking water supplies, the elevated salts in the monitoring wells at the locations do not present a health or safety risk.
Testing has confirmed that no constituents were discovered in the monitoring wells at concentrations exceeding health-based maximum concentration levels, as determined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Pennsylvania has a robust regulatory program and Range accepts the DEP's actions, which has resulted in a signed Consent Order Agreement and an associated penalty settlement.
While the Company is deeply disappointed that these violations occurred, Range is excited to implement newly established best practices and technologies that have been jointly developed with the DEP over the last several months and years.
These new practices go above and beyond more comprehensive landfill regulations and newly proposed oil and gas impoundment standards to prevent future issues and continue leading the nation in water recycling.
All new facilities will incorporate best management practices and design standards to include thicker and better engineered liners, newly designed leak detection systems with capabilities to allow for precise and immediate leak detection, a system to allow real-time remote monitoring, leak prevention redundancies including a layer of geosynthetic clay liner that acts as a sealant in the event of a leak, on-site security, continual monitoring by trained experts, and enhanced location siting to alleviate possible traffic issues.
The Company will continue to utilize temporary pipelines to transport water that greatly reduce truck traffic, which is an important consideration for the communities in which Range works. The water stored in reuse impoundments is currently a blend of treated or filtered flowback water, drilling and produced water, as well as rain and freshwater.
Part of Range’s plan includes the following: closing five legacy impoundments by the end of the year, with one being closed by April 2015, upgrading two impoundments with these newly established best practices, converting one to a freshwater impoundment, and conducting additional monitoring and testing of water and soil surrounding the locations.
Some of these underutilized locations have been out of service for several years and were in the process of being reclaimed.
In addition to implementing these new best practices for impoundments Range is taking additional steps to better manage freshwater withdrawals. This includes reorganizing and refocusing specific employees to provide greater coordination and oversight of water management and regulatory compliance matters to provide more timely coordination with the DEP along with continued development of improvements in this critical area of the Company’s operations.
Range is taking these steps after discovering that the Company did not properly administer certain provisions of the Company’s water management plan related to withdrawals along certain waterways.
Range has reaffirmed that the withdrawals did not impact any ecosystems since all pass-by flows were protected, but in some instances exceeded permitted daily and instantaneous withdrawals.
Impoundments and effective water management play a critical role in water recycling and reuse and will continue to serve in this important capacity for responsible shale development.
Range remains fully committed to being good stewards of the environment and in the communities where the Company works in order to fully maximize the tremendous benefits that responsible shale development can mean for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the nation.
DEP Updating Enforcement Policy
Scott Perry, DEP Deputy Secretary For Oil and Gas Management, told DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council Tuesday the agency is nearly finished updating its enforcement policy for the Oil and Gas Program and plans to release proposed revisions in October.
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