HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has notified Range Resources-Appalachia, LLC, of Fort Worth, TX that it intends to assess an $8.9 million civil penalty against the company, and has directed Range Resources to prevent methane and other substances from escaping from a leaking gas well and polluting groundwater and a stream in Lycoming County.
On May 11, 2015, DEP ordered Range Resources to submit a plan to remediate the defectively cemented gas well. However, the company failed to submit a satisfactory plan that made necessary repairs to prevent further leaks and pollution.
“Today, we made it clear that we take seriously our responsibility to protect residents and Pennsylvania’s natural resources,” said DEP Secretary John Quigley. “Clean water is an important part of a strong economy and Range Resources owes it to the people of Lycoming County and surrounding areas to make the repairs necessary to immediately stop the discharge of natural gas to the waters.”
The $8.9 million civil penalty would be assessed under the Clean Streams Law and the 2012 Oil and Gas Act.
Drilling for the well took place in February and March of 2011, and fracking occurred in June 2011. Subsequent investigation revealed that methane contaminated the groundwater-fed wells of private water supplies, and a nearby stream.
Although Range Resources was issued a Notice of Violation in September 2013 for the leaking gas well, it still has not corrected the defective cement. Since that time, the private wells, a pond, and nearby streams have continued to show signs of gas migration, including increased turbidity, and the presence of iron, aluminum and manganese. Elsewhere in the area near the leaking well, foliage “dead spots” and gas escaping from the soil have been observed by DEP.
DEP’s May 11, 2015 order cited Range Resources for not correcting the defective well, and ordered the company to submit and implement a plan to prevent the migration of gas or other fluids. Calling the continued gas migration “unlawful conduct and a public nuisance,” DEP gave Range Resources ten days to submit a remediation plan.
Range Resources submitted a plan that proposed putting the well into production as a means to resolve the gas migration. DEP rejected that plan because it did not include making necessary repairs and has now directed the company to remediate the well in a manner that immediately ceases the discharge of methane to ground and surface water.
“Range Resources has the responsibility to eliminate the gas migration that this poorly constructed well is causing,” said Quigley. “Refusing to make the necessary repairs to protect the public and the environment is not an option.”
Range Resources has appealed the May 11 order to Pennsylvania’s Environmental Hearing Board.