State fines natural gas driller operating in Bradford County

Southwestern Energy Production Co., of Houston, Texas, has been fined $128,031 for drilling five Marcellus Shale natural gas wells in Herrick and Stevens townships, Bradford County, after drilling permits had expired, the state Department of Environmental Protection reported Monday.

A DEP investigation revealed that Southwestern had drilled at the Reeve Sutton 4H well pad in Herrick Township for nine days in October 2012, about 18 months past the permit’s expiration date. The department issued notice of violation letters for this unpermitted drilling to Southwestern in January 2013.

Southwestern committed the same violations at four other wells in Bradford County in October 2012 and February 2013, conducting drilling four to 16 months after permits had expired. Two of the four wells were drilled after the company received the notice of violation letters from the department in January 2013.

Once issued by DEP, a natural gas well drilling permit expires after one year, unless drilling has commenced by that date and is pursued with due diligence. Otherwise, the permit must be renewed. The company’s actions violated the Oil and Gas Act and DEP’s Chapter 78 regulations.