Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Incomplete Application For CNX Midstream Slickville Fracking Wastewater, Natural Gas Pipelines Project In Westmoreland County Withdrawn By DEP

On February 26, 2024,
DEP notified CNX Midstream Operating Company LLC that its application for the Slickville fracking wastewater and natural gas pipelines project is considered withdrawn because CNX failed to provide the information needed to complete the application within 60 days and start its review.

The 13.9 mile pipeline route would have included two pipelines for fracking wastewater and natural gas in Bell, Loyalhanna and Salem Townships in Westmoreland County.  Read more here.

CNX failed to submit a clearance from the US Fish and Wildlife Service for potential impacts outlined in the PA Natural Diversity Inventory permit review of the proposed route.

Three Rivers Waterkeeper submitted comments to DEP in response to the permit application and DEP’s letter of deficiency. 

The Waterkeeper identified 10 major areas of concern that could lead to irreversible damage to natural resources and cause harm to our public health. 

Endangered/Threatened Species

These impacts include those to endangered or threatened fish, wildlife, and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered. 

The law requires regulatory agencies, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to ensure that actions they authorize will not have negative impacts in a way that would jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat of such species.

Within the project's geographic scope, Three Rivers Waterkeeper identified two endangered bat species (the Indiana Bat and the Northern Long Eared Bat) and 10 migratory birds on the threatened and endangered species list. 

Furthermore, the Tricolored Bat is on the Proposed Endangered List, and the Monarch Butterfly is a Candidate for the Endangered species list and would be impacted by the proposed project. 

Bald eagles were also identified, which are protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Protection Treaty Act.

130 Violations

CNX identified in its permit that it is currently in violation and in non-compliance of regulations and statutes, with a total of 130 violations issued, and 30 inspection reports are still open for action by the DEP. 

“Compliance histories like these demonstrate a lack of willingness to comply with the law, and enforcement by the DEP will not deter CNXM from violating the law and causing harm to our environment and public health” states Heather Hulton VanTassel, Executive Director of Three Rivers Waterkeeper.

Impacts Of Spills/Releases

The project had the potential to impact 54 wetlands (24 wetlands were identified as Exceptional Value), 43 streams, and 2 ponds. 

The receiving waters for the on-site streams are Beaver Run and the Kiskiminetas River. 

The downstream portion of Beaver Run is a wild trout stream, and the wetlands in or along the floodplain of the reach of that section of Beaver Run are considered Exceptional Value wetlands. 

One of the primary purposes of this line would be to transport oil and gas wastewater. Oil and gas wastewater contains high levels of volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, sodium, chloride, heavy metals and radioactive radium. 

The discharge and accidental spills of oil and gas waste into waterways pose risks to both human health and the environment. 

“Not only did the withdrawal of this permit protect the critical habitat for threatened and endangered species, but it will prevent the likely contamination of vital drinking water sources and subsequent public health” said Hulton VanTassel. 

Intended For Future Shale Gas Well Development

The purpose of the waterline was to extend the existing water system in support of planned but unauthorized oil and gas well development that has not gone through the permitting process that safeguards our environment and public health. 

The current endpoint of the waterline ends where there is no current facility, therefore there is no current public need for this pipeline.

“The sole goal of [the project is] further exploitation of our environment for oil and gas while residents of Pennsylvania would have only experienced the negative environmental and public health impacts from this project,” said Hulton VanTassel. 

Lisa Johnson, the attorney representing Three Rivers Waterkeeper stated “We are pleased that the Department of Environmental Protection upheld the law and its mission to protect Pennsylvanians and the environment. The habitats of endangered and threatened species continue to shrink, and the Department’s decision to prohibit CNXM from proceeding with a project that would harm those populations is laudable.”

“Increased energy production cannot be the driving force behind permit approval when there are so many natural resources threatened.” says Hulton VanTassel “We cannot live without clean, pure water, and when industries have proven themselves to be non-compliant at the expense of environmental and public health, we must demand better. We must protect our most valuable resources, and in Pennsylvania, we have the right to clean air and pure water.” 

Copies of DEP’s letter to CNX and Three Rivers Waterkeeper comments on the application are available online.

The application can be resubmitted by CNX once it is complete.

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- PA Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Feb. 24 to March 1 - 11 More Abandoned Conventional Wells; Field Of Leaking Wells; Voluntary Plugging; No Cleanup Progress In Reno Spill [PaEN]

-- Latest DEP Inspection Shows No Progress By Petro Erie In Cleaning Up The Conventional Oil Well Wastewater Spill That Contaminated The Village Of Reno’s Water Supply In Venango County 6 Months Ago  [PaEN] 

-- DEP: Clay-Like Material Polluting Marsh Creek Is Not Bentonite From Mariner East Pipeline Construction, But Naturally Occuring; Sunoco Cleanup Operation Finished  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - March 2 [PaEN]

-- 40 Individuals File Appeals, Most Handwritten, Of DEP’s Permit For Catalyst Energy Oil & Gas Wastewater Injection Well In McKean County  [PaEN]

-- EPA Appeals Board Allows Protect PT, Three Rivers Waterkeeper Appeal Of Penneco Oil & Gas Wastewater Injection Well Permit In Allegheny County To Move Forward  [PaEN]

-- Incomplete Application For CNX Midstream Slickville Fracking Wastewater, Natural Gas Pipelines Project In Westmoreland County Withdrawn By DEP  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Posted 64 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In March 2 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]

Related Articles This Week - Gas:

-- DEP: Oil & Gas Regulatory Program Will Be In The Red By Fall; All Sectors Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program No Go; Update On Permitting Reform  [PaEN]

-- PA Utility Law Project March 15 Webinar On Impacts Of LNG Gas Exports On Energy Costs For Pennsylvania Families; LNG Export Capacity To Double, Even With Permit Pause  [PaEN] 

-- Bloomberg: Gov. Shapiro Calls On Biden To Keep Pause On Permits For New LNG Gas Export Facilities Short  [PaEN] 

-- PA Environmental Groups: New PUC Rules, DEP Guidance Victory For Increased Safety In Pipeline Construction And Operation  [PaEN]

-- Chemstream Chemical Maker Agrees To Disclose Information About Its Proprietary Chemicals Used In Natural Gas Drilling  [PaEN]

-- IFO Reports 2023 PA Natural Gas Production Up 1.0% Over 2022, Thanks To Strong Q4 Production; Fewest New Wells Drilled In Last Decade  [PaEN]


-- Spotlight PA: Federal Money Supercharged PA’s Plugging Of Dangerous Conventional Oil & Gas Wells, But Critics Want More Oversight

-- Guest Essay: The Conventional Oil And Gas Industry Isn't Taking Responsibility For Their Wells - By Rep. Greg Vitali, Majority Chair, House Environmental Committee  [PaEN]

-- Q/A With House Environmental Committee Majority Chair Greg Vitali

-- Q/A With Senate Environmental Committee Majority Chair Gene Yaw

-- WESA: Republican US Senate Candidate Says Less Red Tape, More Natural Gas Are Key To PA’s Economic Future

-- Q&A With Michael Huwar, Peoples Gas - ‘Regulatory And Legislative Efforts Must Support The Natural Gas Industry

-- The Allegheny Front - Reid Frazier: Permit Application For CNX Pipeline Project In Westmoreland County Withdrawn, Lacked Wildlife Permits

-- PA Business Report: Chemstream Announces Radical Transparency Fracking Chemical Compliance Initiative

-- TribLive: Murrysville Officials OK Olympus Energy Project For 2 Fracking Water Pipelines, 2 Natural Gas Pipelines In Westmoreland 

-- MCall: Gas Leak Reported In Hellertown, Northampton County Prompting Evacuations  

-- PUC Reminder Of Opportunities To Comment On Proposed 18.7% Peoples Natural Gas Rate Increase 

-- Pittsburgh Business Times: Panel: Washington County State Of The Economy Explores Impacts Of ARCH2 Hydrogen Projects

-- Reuters: European Union Receives Bids For Nearly 3 Times The Volume Of Gas They Need 

-- Bloomberg: Qatar Has Eyes On More Long-Term Deals As It Bets Big On LNG Gas

-- Financial Times: Oil And Gas Industry Profits Triple Under Biden, Even As Industry Decries Him

[Posted: February 27, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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