Pa. reaches settlements with EQM for pipeline violations

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Farm and Dairy file photo

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently finalized the last of three settlements and assessed civil penalties against EQM Gathering OPCO, LLC, totaling $427,650 for slips, stabilization and erosion and sedimentation violations at pipeline sites in Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

“We devote significant time and resources to demand compliance with environmental permits, laws, and regulations to hold operators accountable across DEP programs and in collaboration with county conservation districts,” said department secretary Patrick McDonnell.

On Sept. 1, the department entered into a consent order and agreement with EQM for violations that occurred from 2016 through 2019 during construction of its NIMA D0001/S004/S005 oil and gas pipeline project located in Franklin, Washington and Morgan townships, Greene County, and Amwell Township, Washington County, as well as the TP-4555 pipeline located in Derry Township, Westmoreland County.

The Greene, Washington and Westmoreland county conservation districts each conducted numerous inspections of the sites in their respective counties and found that EQM failed to implement or maintain effective erosion and sedimentation control best management practices to minimize the potential for accelerated erosion and sedimentation.

EQM also failed to implement its Preparedness, Prevention and Contingency Plan, failed to perform required reporting and recordkeeping, failed to comply with conditions of its permits and failed to permanently stabilize areas of construction for one of the sites in Greene County.

These violations led to discharges of bentonite or sediment-laden water to enter Loyalhanna Creek, Ruff Creek and an unnamed tributary to Boyd Creek — all warm water protected use fisheries — as well as Little Chartiers Creek, Tenmile Creek, Little Tenmile Creek and an unnamed tributary to Little Tenmile Creek — all trout-stocked, protected-use fisheries.

This agreement requires EQM to repair all seven slips it had not previously repaired, provide notice and a repair schedule for any new slips to the department and county conservation districts and pay an $82,650 civil penalty in addition to cost recovery totaling $2,634 to the respective conservation districts.

In the nine months preceding this settlement, the department reached two additional agreements with EQM to address violations in Washington and Greene counties. In February 2020, DEP executed a consent assessment of civil penalty with EQM for violations that occurred in March and April 2018 during construction of its NIRI S001 pipeline located in Jefferson Township, Greene County.

The assessment includes a civil penalty assessment of $250,000.

Sediment-laden water from an approximately 150-foot slide overtopped erosion and sedimentation control practices at the NIRI S001 pipeline site.

During a follow-up inspection, the department documented that the slide area and numerous sections of the pipeline were not stabilized and showed signs of accelerated erosion and sedimentation, practices were not properly installed or maintained, and sediment laden water overtopped numerous erosion and sedimentation controls and flowed into unnamed tributaries of South Fork Tenmile Creek and associated wetlands, which are high-quality waters of the commonwealth.

Less than a month after the slide, EQM had corrected the violations by stabilizing the pipeline and slide area and repairing or replacing the erosion and sedimentation practices.

The department also executed a consent order and agreement with EQM in December 2019, that addressed violations that occurred in 2016 and 2017 during construction of the NIMA S0001/S0003 oil and gas pipeline in Amwell, North Bethlehem, and Somerset townships, Washington County.

The Washington County Conservation District conducted several inspections of the site and documented EQM’s failure to implement effective practices to minimize erosion and sedimentation, failure to stabilize areas of earth disturbance, earth disturbance activities that created the potential for sediment pollution, sediment pollution and failure to comply with permit conditions.

The discharges, including fill, from the construction site entered a private pond on property EQM leased for the pipeline right-of-way and Little Tenmile Creek. The agreement required EQM to pay a $95,000 civil penalty to the department and a $1,960 in cost recovery to the district and outlined a corrective action plan for stabilization and restoration work as well as monitoring of the private pond and right of way and reporting to the department.

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