The Department of Environmental Protection has revoked three erosion and sedimentation control general permits previously issued to Ultra Resources Inc. and Fortuna Energy Inc. due to technical deficiencies after the Chesapeake Bay Foundation appealed the permit which the agency initially issued after only a few days of review.
“DEP took this action because of numerous technical deficiencies discovered after our approval of the permits,” said DEP Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell.
The erosion and sedimentation control general permits are required whenever more than five acres of earth will be disturbed during construction of natural gas well drilling pads or natural gas pipelines.
As part of an expedited permit review process that DEP announced earlier this year, a licensed professional engineer, surveyor, geologist or landscape architect must submit a notice of intent and supporting documentation to DEP, including a certification that the information submitted meets the permit requirements.
DEP staff performs an administrative completeness review, but relies on the professional’s certification that the application is technically correct and meets all the permit requirements.
The technical deficiencies in both permits included inaccurate calculations, failure to provide best management practices where required, and lack of proper technical detail.
The permit revocations mean that Ultra Resources and Fortuna Energy must immediately halt all earth disturbance activities at the sites except those necessary to install or maintain erosion and sediment control or post-construction and site restoration best management practices.
The Ultra Resources permit was for sites in Gaines and Elk townships, Tioga County, and Pike and Abbott townships, Potter County. The Fortuna permit covered sites in Ward and Jackson townships, Tioga County.
Neither company is eligible to re-submit notices of intent requesting the expedited permit process for those locations.
In its letter to the three licensed professionals, DEP warns that additional enforcement action may be taken against them, including possible referral to the Department of State, Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs for disciplinary action.
The licensed professionals receiving the letters include James Gensel of Fagan Engineers in Elmira, N.Y.; Karl Matz of Larson Design Group Inc. in Williamsport; and K. Robert Cunningham of Cunningham Surveyors in Wellsboro.
CBF challenged permits issued to Fortuna Energy, Inc. authorizing earth disturbance for pipeline construction in Jackson Township, and to Ultra Resources, Inc. authorizing earth disturbance for substantial drilling operations in Gaines and Elk townships.
The Fortuna pipeline will cross tributaries of wild trout streams and impact exceptional value wetlands in violation of Pennsylvania wetlands law. The Ultra project will include pipeline crossings of high quality trout streams within the Pine Creek watershed, home to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and one of the state’s premier outdoor recreation destinations.
For both projects, there was no analysis of the rate or volume of stormwater runoff from the construction, which can pollute streams.
In fact, the Ultra permit was issued within two days of receipt of the application. Phase II of the Fortuna permit, the one with the Exceptional Value wetlands issue, was issued within three business days.