Gas company hit with $150,000 fine for violations

A natural gas company was fined $150,000 Monday by the state Department of Environmental Protection for discharge violations during construction of a pipeline in four Lycoming County townships during fall 2011.

PVR Marcellus Gas Gathering LLC illegally discharged during construction of the Coal Mountain pipeline, a 13-mile, 30-inch diameter gas gathering pipeline that crosses Cogan House, Cummings, Lycoming and Mifflin townships.

The department began its investigation following a complaint in September 2011 and immediately discovered violations at the Second Fork of Larry’s Creek, where bentonite, a chemical used by the industry, had been discharged to the creek from a stream boring operation, and the company failed to report the spill to department in a timely manner, according to John Ryder, department director of district oil and gas operations.

Follow-up inspections of the pipeline project by department officials documented multiple and continuing violations of the state Clean Streams Law, laws regarding dam safety and encroachments and various related environmental regulations, including sediment discharges into these type of streams, he wrote in a news release.

The department also determined that large sections of earth disturbance and open pipeline trenches contributed to the violations. The company had almost five miles of open trench ahead of the pipe installation. The violations do not appear to have caused any long-term impacts to the streams, according to Ryder.

A compliance order issued by the Oil and Gas Program in early October 2011 required the company to immediately cease all earth disturbance activities and implement specific best management practices to minimize the potential for accelerated erosion and sedimentation.

The company complied with the requirements of the department’s order in November 2011 and was authorized to resume earth disturbance activities under certain conditions. The department documented additional violations during the remainder of the pipeline construction project.

By March 2012, when work on the project was nearly complete, the company came into compliance with the noted violations.

“The number and ongoing nature of these violations, which impacted high quality and exceptional value streams, have resulted in a significant penalty,” Ryder said. “The department’s Oil and Gas Program takes enforcement actions like this when industry violations are not appropriately corrected.”