Thursday, October 7, 2010

DEP Fines Drilling For Illegally Filling Exceptional Value State Forest Wetland

The Department of Environmental Protection has fined a Marcellus Shale driller $40,000 and ordered it to correct multiple violations after discovering that the company illegally built an impoundment on wetlands in Tioga State Forest, jeopardizing an important natural resource.
DEP inspected the Bloss Township, Tioga County, site in March and found Seneca Resources Corp. of Brookville had filled nearly one acre of “exceptional value” wetland without authorization, improperly built an impoundment, and caused sediment runoff by failing to institute erosion control best management practices.
The unauthorized fill in a wetland and sediment runoff were violations of the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law and the Dam Safety and Encroachments Act.
“Wetlands are highly protected in Pennsylvania for a number of reasons, but largely because many plant and animal species depend on them for survival,” said DEP North-central Regional Director Nels Taber. “Beyond that, they improve water quality providing a natural purification system, add to a healthy environment, and help control flooding. It’s important that we do everything possible to protect them, that’s why DEP requires a permit before a wetland can be impacted.”
Exceptional value wetlands receive special protection under DEP’s Chapter 105 Dam Safety and Waterway Management regulations based on certain characteristics. The wetland that was improperly filled by Seneca received the classification because it was located along the Johnson Creek floodplain, a wild trout stream in the Tioga River watershed.
DEP issued an Erosion and Sediment Control General Permit No. 1 to Seneca in November 2009 so the company could build a fresh water impoundment to store water for use in hydraulically fracturing Marcellus Shale natural gas wells.
To correct the violations, DEP’s Oil and Gas Program required Seneca to submit a wetland restoration and mitigation plan.
DEP approved the plan and the wetland restoration is underway. Seneca has removed fill from the impacted wetland, but not finished final grading or constructed the new, 0.86-acre exceptional value wetland.

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