Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

DEP Allows Fracking To Resume At Spill Site Before Investigation is Complete

Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvania

The investigation into a March 13 gas well spill in Wyoming County is still ongoing, but the DEP has allowed the company to resume normal operations.

The state Department of Environmental Protection hasn’t finished its investigation into a gas well spill that caused the evacuation of three homes in Wyoming County last month, but in the meantime the agency has allowed the drilling company to resume fracking operations.

The accident began on the evening of March 13 at a well north of Tunkhannock in Washington Township. More than a quarter million gallons of fracking waste water came out of the well before it was successfully capped the following afternoon.

The Texas-based company operating the well, Carrizo Marcellus, was allowed to resume fracking operations last Friday.

“We’re still investigating what could have been done to prevent it,” says DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly, “[Carrizo] seems to be following up on what we recommended.”

There is no written DEP policy on allowing a company with an ongoing investigation to resume normal operations.  According to the agency, each investigation is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

The DEP sent a Notice of Violation to the company on March 18, citing numerous issues including the discharge of fracking waste water into shallow groundwater.

According to Carrizo, the accident was caused when a seal leaked on a piece of equipment known as a “frack tree.” The company was in the last stages of fracking the well when the incident occurred.

State records show Carrizo has drilled 85 wells in Pennsylvania since 2009 and has been fined more than $113,000 for infractions ranging from administrative record-keeping to mishandling waste.

The DEP is determining whether to fine the company for the March accident. A Carrizo spokesman says he expects the company will pay penalties.

You can read the DEP’s Notice of Violation to Carrizo below. In the letter, the agency says Carrizo should halt all operations within the state until the matter is resolved:

The Department strongly recommends that any hydraulic fracturing operations being conducted by your company within Pennsylvania be discontinued until the cause of this problem and a solution are identified.

Carrizo says they did halt all operations in the state until last Friday. The company was also required to file a report with the DEP describing the accident, but the agency says it’s not releasing that report until the investigation is complete.

 

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