A Colorado-based gas well operator will pay nearly $1 million in fines for damage to streams caused by a landslide and wastewater spill at a Greene County, PA, shale well pad.
Vantage Energy must remove blockage from the unnamed streams and restore the land around the Porter Street pad in Franklin, PA, by the end of 2015, according to an agreement signed between the company and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The company did not take measures to prevent the landslide in January. A contractor in July dumped two truckloads of wastewater, causing further damage, the DEP said, after saying the company will pay the $999,900 penalty. Regulators found no evidence of toxic pollution.
The company halted gas production from two finished wells at the site and drilling at eight others in July after the wastewater spill, the DEP said.
“These violations resulted in significant damage to our natural resources, and this action is in direct response to the seriousness of the violations,” said John Ryder, director of district oil and gas operations for DEP. “To its credit, Vantage has begun to make a genuine effort to better manage and operate their well sites.”
Vantage said the violations were isolated incidents, and some “were related to legacy development projects that Vantage acquired.
“We have no higher priority than the protection of our environment, as well as the safety of our employees, contractors and the communities where we are privileged to operate,” the company said.
The company further damaged the streams — tributaries of Grimes Run — by improperly building an access road to the well pad after the landslide, DEP said.
“We didn’t see any evidence of a fish kill,” DEP spokesman John Poister said about the impacts on the streams. “The problems were primarily sediment and … blockage.”
The Englewood-based company has a small footprint in the Marcellus shale. It produced gas from 14 wells during the first six months of the year, all in Greene County, according to state reports.
Poister said Vantage’s lack of employees in Pennsylvania allowed the problems to happen on the Porter Street pad.
“There was only one direct Vantage employee there. All the work was done by contractors. The employee really didn’t have direct and strong oversight,” he said.
“Since we have had considerable back and forth … as they approached us to make genuine and substantive corrections, they’ve begun to staff up. They established a Southwestern Pennsylvania headquarters. That is an improvement.”
The fines follow the largest levies of the shale era of $4.15 million and $4.5 million DEP assessed this year against Fort Worth-based Range Resources Corp. and Downtown-based EQT Corp. for leaks at wastewater impoundments.