Chesapeake fined $1.9M for damaging Pennsylvania waterways

natural gas well

State and federal regulators levied a nearly $2 million fine against Chesapeake Appalachia for damaging streams and wetlands at 76 gas drilling sites in Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced the “landmark” consent decree March 24.

Chesapeake moved earth, created water obstructions and encroachments and discharged dredged or fill material into waterways, without the proper permits, impacting 25.7 acres of wetlands and 2,326 feet of streams, according to the complaint filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The damages happened across sites in Beaver, Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties. The impacted areas in Beaver County were located in South Beaver Township.

“This settlement resolves many violations over several years and leads to a net increase of wetlands and restored streams,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell, in a statement.

The issues came to light after a similar wetland-related prosecution happened in West Virginia in 2013. In that case, Chesapeake was ordered to pay a $3.2 million fine for damaging more than 2 miles of streams and more than 3 acres of wetlands.

Chesapeake voluntarily disclosed to the DEP and EPA a number of probable violations.

“The Chesapeake disclosure noted that an internal environmental audit process revealed the company’s systemic failure to identify wetland resources in applications to DEP to construct oil and gas facilities in Pennsylvania between 2005 and 2014,” according to the release by the Pennsylvania DEP.

As part of the consent decree, Chesapeake will restore 55 acres of wetlands and 4,410 feet of stream. Half of the $1.9 million penalty will go to Pennsylvania, to be used in the Dam and Encroachments Fund and Oil and Gas Fund.

The negotiation of the consent decree was interrupted when Chesapeake filed for bankruptcy last summer. The decree was filed in a federal court in Williamsport and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.


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