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Three natural gas exploration companies in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania reached settlements for methane gas violations.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) finalized agreements with the companies for methane gas migration violations that had an impact on private drinking water wells in Bradford, Lycoming, and Tioga counties.

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“These were complex and lengthy investigations that took a considerable amount of time to resolve, but the department was able to conclusively determine that methane gas from natural gas wells had migrated off-site and impacted private wells serving homes and hunting clubs,” said John Ryder, DEP director of district oil and gas operations.

The penalties included Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, $193,135 for the Rockwell Road migration in Leroy Township, Bradford County; XTO Energy Inc., $95,753 for the German Run migration in Franklin and Moreland townships, Lycoming County; and SWEPI LP, $85,593 for the French Lick Run migration in Union Township, Tioga County.

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Chesapeake details:
• Initial notification from Chesapeake on May 19, 2012
• Four private water wells impacted
• Surface expressions of methane in 14 locations within the Towanda Creek watershed
• Caused by casing issues at Chesapeake’s Morse gas well

XTO Energy details:
• Initial citizen complaint on May 17, 2011
• Seven private water wells impacted
• Surface expressions of methane in Little Muncy Creek and German Run
• Caused by casing and cementing issues at XTO’s Moser and Tome gas wells

SWEPI LP details:
• Initial notification from SWEPI on June 17, 2012
• Two hunting club water wells impacted
• Surface expressions of methane in French Lick Run
• Pressurized surface expression discharging water 40 feet into the air through a shallow conduit
• Caused by communication between an old abandoned gas well and one or more of SWEPI’s gas wells on its Cochran, Guindon, and/or Yaggie well pads

All of the water wells ended up permanently replaced, had treatment systems installed by the responsible company, or have returned to background conditions, DEP officials said.

Remedial work on the defective wells ended up properly completed as required by the department’s regulations, officials said.

All three cases included violations of the 2012 Oil and Gas Act, Clean Streams Law, and DEP’s Chapter 78 regulations. The companies paid the penalties.

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