Vantage Energy Appalachia has been fined $999,900 by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for more than a dozen violations of regulations in connection with a Jan. 15 landslide as well as illegal waste disposal at a well pad in Franklin Township, Greene County.
According to John Ryder, director of district oil and gas operations for the DEP, the department learned about the landslide a day later and immediately sent inspectors who found that the slide impacted the side of the well pad and dropped 40 feet downward, encroaching on two streams. The slide eventually covered the steams.
Under threat of a DEP-ordered shutdown, Vantage Energy ceased drilling operations and took "interim action" to prevent farther movement of the slide.
However, according to Ryder, on July 14 Elite Well Services, a Vantage contractor dumped 200 barrels of drilling wastewater down the side of the well pad where the stabilization measures were taking place. The wastewater wound up in the same two streams impacted by the slide.
“These violations resulted in significant damage to our natural resources and this action is in direct response to the seriousness of the violations,” Ryder said. “The company has hired an independent consultant to conduct an environmental audit of all of their well sites in Pennsylvania and the company is now fully cooperating with DEP.”
Vantage Energy wrote in a statement that they are committed to "excellence, transparency and environmental compliance."
"We regret these isolated events, some that were related to legacy development projects that Vantage acquired, and are taking important proactive steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur again ... We appreciate the department’s efforts throughout this ongoing process, and are committed to continuing to work closely with DEP on our ongoing remediation efforts. 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 signed a consent order with the DEP, agreeing to the fine, which is one of the largest imposed by the department this year on a driller. The consent order also stipulates additional penalties if project deadlines are not met. The company must complete all the work on the site, meeting all DEP regulations, by Dec. 31, 2015.
Editor's note: This post has been updated to include a statement from Vantage Energy.