Friday, July 24, 2020

DEP: CNX Gas Pays $310,000 Penalty For Violations During, After Pipeline Construction In Washington County

On July 24, the Department of Environmental Protection announced it executed a
Consent Order and Agreement with CNX Gas Company LLC and CNX Midstream Partners, LP, which includes a $310,000 civil penalty to address violations that occurred during and following pipeline construction in Washington County.
The settlement notably requires an independent audit of the operator’s wastewater management activities, and directs it to review and resubmit pollution, prevention, and contingency (PPC) plans to better plan and prevent future environmental impacts across its Pennsylvania operations.

“For DEP, enforcing environmental laws goes beyond correcting violations and collecting civil penalties,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “The department successfully uses these agreements to gather data used to improve our industry oversight and drive operational changes beyond what the law requires to strengthen environmental safeguards more broadly.”

CNX owns and operates the wastewater pipelines associated with the Morris to McQuay Phase 2 Reroute Pipeline project. 

CNXM is the permittee of two erosion and sediment control general permits (ESCGP) authorizations for earth disturbance associated with the construction of the natural gas gathering pipelines and waste fluid waterlines for reuse in well development activities in East Finley Township, Washington County. 

From August 26, 2016, to August 16, 2018, DEP noted several violations associated with the pipeline project, which include:

-- Spills totaling 43 gallons of drilling mud (comprised of bentonite slurry) into Boothe Run; 

-- Ineffective and not adequately maintained erosion and sedimentation best management practices (BMPs) and slope failures along construction of the MOR 31 to Morris to McQuay Phase 2 Reroute that caused slides outside the pipeline’s limit of disturbance, contributed to destabilization of fill slope of a nearby well pad that were later temporarily stabilized; and

-- An approximately 630-gallon brine spill along the pipeline route that was later remediated per DEP policy.

Notably on August 16, 2018, CNX reported another brine spill from a buried waste waterline on the MOR 31 to Morris to McQuay Phase 2 Reroute that impacted an unnamed tributary (“UNT”) to Enlow Fork. 

CNX does not know the date that the release started but estimated that the leak released 50 barrels (2,100 gallons) of brine. 

CNX excavated the waste waterline the next day, revealing a four- to six-inch crack at a weld location, which leaked brine into the excavated trench. 

By August 30, 2018, CNX excavated impacted soil, collected confirmation soil samples, and began backfilling the area with clean fill. 

DEP’s compliance staff observed areas of stressed and dead vegetation and elevated conductivity readings in the area and a groundwater seep in the tributary and issued a compliance order requiring the identification and monitoring of all water supplies within 3,000 feet of the release area and a plan to install monitoring wells to characterize groundwater impacts caused by the release. 

To comply with the order, CNX submitted information to DEP that revealed inadequacies with the preparation and implementation of the operator’s PPC plans that limited the plan to construction of pipelines and totally failed to identify the waste fluids transported or measures to monitor or respond to pipeline releases. 

CNX characterized the soil near the spill area, identified and sampled ten water supplies in the vicinity of the release, and found the results comparable to pre-release sample data. 

CNX also installed three wells to monitor groundwater and reported data that demonstrated constituents associated with the brine spill were below their respective applicable Act 2 Medium Specific Concentrations (MSC). 

DEP approved the Act 2 final report for substances remediated. 

DEP regulates earth disturbance associated with the construction of pipelines and has enforcement authority in the event of spills or other pollution events. Operators are required to report pollution events and have PPC plans for pipelines as well as well pads. 

PPC plans combine elements of monitoring, spill or leak prevention response planning, an inspection program, record keeping, and evaluation of security or external factors, as well as pipeline testing, fluid compatibility analyses, monitoring, pressure-testing, inspections, secondary containment, lining, or other environmentally protective measures.

“While utilizing reuse water in drilling operations is authorized by DEP’s regulations, the department holds operators to their obligation to use caution and implement safeguards to protect Pennsylvania communities and water resources,” added McDonnell.

This COA outlines the violations of the 2012 Oil and Gas Act, Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Streams Law, statutes and regulations and details additional corrective actions required of CNX and CNXM that include a third-party independent audit of CNX’s water management activities related to oil and gas well development and submittal of adequate PPC plans for all of CNX’s oil and gas fluid pipelines. 

The $310,000 civil penalty will go into the Oil and Gas Fund. 

Click Here for a copy of the Consent Order and Agreement.  Media questions should be directed to Lauren Fraley, DEP Southwest Regional Office, by calling 412-442-4203 or send an email to:

Related Article:

AG Shapiro Charges National Fuel Gas Supply, Subcontractor With Environmental Crimes Related To Pipeline Construction In Washington County

[Posted: July 24, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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