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Companies told to stop operations

May 31, 2008
The state Department of Environmental Protection has ordered two natural gas companies operating at separate sites in Lycoming County to suspend part of their operations.

One company spokesman said the order will have no effect on its drilling operation.

According to DEP Northcentral Regional Office Director Robert Yowell, Range Resources — Appalachia LLC and Chief Oil and Gas LLC violated the state Clean Streams Law by not taking precautions to make sure nearby streams are not polluted during gas drilling operations.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission also issued orders to the companies because they did not obtain required water withdrawal permits, according to DEP.

The DEP order involves permits and water management plans for “impoundments” — man-made water reservoirs — at a Range Resources drilling site in Cogan House Township and a Chief Gas and Oil site in Mifflin Township.

The impoundments were being filled with water from Big Sandy Run, a tributary of Hoagland Run, at the Range Resources site, and from Mud Run, a tributary of First Fork Larry’s Creek, at the Chief Oil and Gas site, according to DEP spokesman Neil Weaver.

“They have to get paperwork in order, demonstrate they are not polluting (the streams) and show they are meeting state laws and regulations,” Weaver said. “We want to make sure they are managing the site and taking into account Pennsylvania’s water resources.”

Weaver said several issues “need to be addressed — (reservoir) construction, how they are lined, if they are secure, the rate of (water) withdrawal ... They need to show how the water will be reused or if it will be taken away and treated.”

The information must be provided to the agency within 30 days, he said.

Rodney Waller, Range Resources senior vice president and chief compliance officer, said his company will do what it needs to comply with state regulations.

Because the DEP order was issued during the drilling portion of the operation, which does not require large volumes of water, the operation will not be interrupted, Waller said.

“The DEP is simply requiring us not to take water from one particular stream. We are continuing to drill because we are not using that much water,” he said.

The permits and water management plans should be in order once the fracturing — or “fracing” — process begins, Waller said.

Fracing involves pumping large amounts of pressurized water into the well to pulverize rock and release gas trapped in it.

“We’re not fracing yet,” Waller said. “I’d much rather this happen now then in the middle of a frac job.”

Chief Oil and Gas, however, is preparing a fracing operation at the Mifflin Township site.

The operation was to start next week, said Kristi Gittins, company vice president of communications.

“The good news is, we weren’t in the middle of it,” she said.

The company plans to meet with both agencies next week “and hope to come to a resolution soon so we can continue our hydrofrac operation,” Gittins said.

The company has been open regarding its operations and has hosted numerous field tours of the its drilling and fracing operations, she added.

It wants to work with agencies and county and municipal officials to make sure gas can be removed without adversely impacting the environment, she said.

Gas exploration is new in Lycoming County, Waller said, so there are few precedents for gas companies to follow.

“We’ll figure it out. Once you get into the mode, everyone will follow the lead guy,” he said.

Article Photos

Ken Balliet, extension forester for Pennsylvania State University, left, tries the sniff test on a sample of shale as he and Tom Murphy of of the PSU Extension Education take a closer look at the core samples of Marcellus Shale inside sample pipes at the Chief Oil and Gas drilling rig near Salladasburg in November 2007.



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