Energy. Environment. Economy.

EPA Fines XTO Energy for Lycoming County Frack Water Spills

A natural gas drill rig in Springville.

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A natural gas drill rig in Springville, PA.

The Environmental Protection Agency has fined XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, $100,000 for violating the federal Clean Water Act. The company’s drilling operations discharged between 6,300 and 57,373 gallons of waste water into the Susquehanna river system in Penn Township, Lycoming County. The waste water contained high levels of strontium, chloride, bromide, barium, and total dissolved solids and flowed continually for more than two months in the fall of 2010, according to the EPA.

An employee with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection discovered an open valve at a waste water storage tank during an inspection. The settlement, announced on Wednesday, also requires XTO to spend an estimated $20 million to improve its waste water disposal process.

“Today’s settlement holds XTO accountable for a previous violation of the Clean Water Act and requires operational changes and improved management practices to help ensure the safe and responsible handling of wastewater produced during natural gas exploration and production activities,” said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in a release. “The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that our natural resources are developed in an environmentally responsible manner.”

As part of the settlement, XTO will now be required to recycle at least 50 percent of its wastewater, meaning that water will be used to frack other wells. Waste water pits or open tanks are prohibited, the company must install remote monitoring systems and establish a 24-hour emergency phone number.

Although XTO is not one of the top ten drillers in the state, it is one of the top ten violators, with nearly one violation per well. The most recent data available shows the company with 212 active wells, and a staggering 179 violations incurred by just 25 wells. The top offender is the Marquardt 8537H well, in Penn Township, which seems to be the site of this discharge.

Penn Township, Lycoming County, which covers about 26 square miles and is home to about 1000 people, has endured one of the highest numbers of drilling violations than any other municipality in the state. With 109 active wells, environmental regulators have issued 165 violations by both XTO Energy and EXCO Resources.


  • Balicon

    Because Governor Corbett has so weakened the PaDEP with summary firings, suppressed reports, sexual harrassment and climate science denial the USEPA will have to step in more and more to regulate gas drilling, fracking, waste fluid disposal and pipelines. It will take decades under enlightened leadeship to undo the damage this right wing ideologue has done to this state.

    • hmontaigne

      EPA is being pressured by the industry also. We’re going to have to all speak out, loudly. And pray for enlightened leadership, because a miracle is probably the only way we’ll get it.

  • Patrick Henderson

    It is ironic that StateImpact carries an article citing natural gas violations of the federal Clean Water Act, when in the past StateImpact has (wrongly and devoid of context) informed its readers that oil and gas drilling are, essentially, wholly exempt from these federal environmental standards (

    The comment that Gov. Corbett has “so weakened” PA DEP is absurd, as the writer no doubt knows. Three budgets without any furloughs – contrasted to the furloughs that were implemented under John Hanger. And under Gov. Corbett, inspections of well sites DOUBLED in 2011 compared to the last year under Hanger (10,000 compared to 5,000 under Hanger). And the largest fine levied in the history of the Commonwealth under the Oil and Gas Act was imposed during the Corbett Administration. And, thanks to passage of Act 13, 24 specific amendments to enhance the Oil and Gas Act environmental safeguards were enacted by Gov. Corbett – compare that to no proposals to amend PA’s Oil and Gas Act under 2 1/2 years of John Hanger’s Administration.

    The facts are pretty clear.

    Patrick Henderson, Energy Executive

    Office of Gov. Tom Corbett

    • Celia Janosik

      People who live near drilling, condensate tanks, compressor stations, cryogenic plants do not have any faith in the DEP. I know people who have been made very sick with detached retinas, nose bleeds, asthma, neurological disorders, nausea, vomiting and the thing they all have in common is living near the slick water hydraulic fracturing activities especially if they live down wind. Pets die, water contamination and their lives are never the same. Truck drivers who have had to clean out their trucks can no longer work. The contents of those trucks have radio active material, heavy metals, VOC’s and concentrated brine, far saltier than the sea. I do not want a drill rig 500 ft from my home and it could be closer if the drillers get a waiver. Act 13 allows drilling everywhere. The largest drilling fine? There should be many more fines and painful ones at that. There are more wells being drilled now so therefore more inspections but not nearly enough. Who checks the cement casings? Where does all the waste frack water go? We need closed loop systems. BAN FRACKING NOW.

      • hooker

        our an idiot your closed minded idiot and always will be, guess what ? they are gonna frack anyways and you should pray that if they do have more regulations and taxes imposed that energy companies don’t pack up and say goodbye, hell I did ND here I come, I choose not to pay PA state taxes anymore or all their BS regulations but watch energy companies will leave PA no more wind fall no more energy good paying jobs o well screw PA

    • Fracked

      a clear agenda…..he serves them well…

    • Iris Marie Bloom

      Who is running for office here instead of focusing on protecting Pennsylvanians’ precious air, water and public health? Patrick Henderson is playing games by attacking Susan Phillips’ excellent and persistent reporting. His attack, based on false premises, is an obvious attempt to distract from the fact that, had PA DEP been doing its job, XTO would have been forced YEARS ago to clean up its horrendous ongoing record of toxic and sickening spills.

      Further, on March 14th of this year, Phillips posted an article specifically about stormwater runoff regulation exemptions the oil and gas industry has on a federal level, and a PA Representative (Cartwright) whose FRESHER Act would close those exemptions. Henderson attacked Phillips in that comment thread as well, taking her article out of context there just as he did here! She even answered him, so he has no excuse to pretend not to know. Phillips stated, “Patrick, the proposed legislation, and my article, specifically refers to federal exemptions, not state laws. And I wrote clearly that the exemptions the legislation refer to are related to storm water run-off.”

      It is quite frankly disgusting that Henderson is spending his time trashing good reporting in a pathetic attempt to defend our current governor. Corbett knew about the sexual abuse of children at Penn State when he was Attorney General and did nothing about it — in fact delayed action — and his tack with the gas industry has been identical: side with the abuser by avoiding significant investigation or punitive action. But neither Corbett nor Henderson can distract the people from the ongoing ravaging of our air, water and health by a poisonous industry.

    • Susan Phillips

      The EPA can continue to enforce rules even in states that administer the Clean Water Act. The EPA told me that the XTO violation falls under the National Enforcement Initiative established in 2011 to address oil and gas extraction.

      When I asked the EPA why they, instead of the DEP issued the fine, a spokesman said the agency did work with the DEP.

      “Pursuant to this initiative, the EPA continues to address incidences of noncompliance from natural gas extraction and production activities that may cause or contribute to significant harm to public health and/or the environment. In addressing this matter, the EPA consulted with Pennsylvania to secure a robust federal settlement that would compliment any future state action.”

      Susan Phillips

  • Lisa DeSantis

    I guess XTO took a spin on the ole fracking wheel of misfortune and came up winning. What’s the penalty, 2 dollars a gallon? Seem Right?

  • Khesanhvet

    This State will be a wasteland due to the “frack holes” and Corbett who is be holding to them for their campaign donations they made to make him the governor. We the People of this State are the losers not Corbett and his “FrackHole ” buddies!

  • Sandra Folzer

    Thank you, Susan Phillips, for being brave enough to tell the truth about how the fracking industry is doing major damage to our precious water supply. Patrick Henderson, trying to defend Corbett, suggests he has strengthened the DEP.
    This is the same Corbett who received $1.8 million from the gas industry for
    his political campaigns and who selected Krancer to head the DEP before he left to work for the industry.

  • hooker

    I see the left wing nut jobs are alive and well here.

  • Ron T

    Disease will be rampant no mater how far from the drill site the toxic chemicals will cause cancer and many other diseases and medical problems . I was over 300 miles away from the spraying of agent orange In Vietnam and I am diseased from it even 10 years later . Agent orange in not as toxic as the drilling chemicals they use .

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