An ExxonMobil subsidiary, XTO Energy Inc., the nation’s largest holder of natural gas reserves, will spend an estimated $3 million to restore eight sites damaged by unauthorized discharges of fill material into streams and wetlands, federal officials said.
XTO will also implement a comprehensive plan to comply with federal and state water protection laws at the company’s West Virginia’s oil and gas extraction facilities that use horizontal drilling methods, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DoJ).
Additionally, the company will pay a civil penalty of $2.3 million for violations of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which prohibits the filling of wetlands, rivers, streams, and other waters of the United States without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The settlement resolves violations of state law asserted by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP). The state of West Virginia is co-plaintiff in the settlement and will receive half of the $2.3 million civil penalty.
The federal government and WVDEP said XTO had an impact on streams and discharged sand, dirt, rocks and other fill material into streams and wetlands without a federal permit in order to construct well pads, road crossings, freshwater pits, and other facilities related to natural gas extraction. The settlement resolves the violations that occurred at eight sites located in the West Virginia counties of Harrison, Marion and Upshur. The government said the violations impacted more than 5,300 linear feet of stream, and 3.38 acres of wetlands.
The settlement requires the company to fully restore the wetlands and streams wherever feasible, monitor the restored sites for up to 10 years to assure the restoration occurs successfully, and implement a comprehensive compliance program with the Clean Water Act and applicable West Virginia law.
EPA discovered some of the violations through information provided by the state and through routine joint inspections conducted with the Corps, who actively supported EPA and DoJ in this case. In addition, the company voluntarily disclosed potential violations at five of the sites following an internal audit. Beginning in 2011, EPA issued administrative compliance orders for violations at all eight sites. Since that time, the company has been working with EPA to correct the violations and restore those sites in full compliance with EPA’s orders.