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Attorney General reaches agreement with XTO over criminal charges

Kimberly Paynter/

Kimberly Paynter / Newsworks

A natural gas well in Lycoming County. After bringing criminal charges against driller XTO Energy, the attorney general's office has settled on a fine.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office has reached a settlement with XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, over criminal charges filed in 2013 for a wastewater spill that occurred in 2010. The AG’s office has used a rehabilitation program primarily reserved for drunk drivers with no prior record, to avoid trial. Under the program, known as accelerated rehabilitative disposition, XTO will pay a $300,000 fine to the Department of Environmental Protection, and an additional $100,000 to the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership for environmental clean up in Lycoming County and continue to comply with a federal consent decree issued by the EPA.
“This settlement will result in additional oversight over a company that was allegedly responsible for discharging thousands of gallons of fracking wastewater into the environment,” Attorney General Kane said in a statement. “This is an important step toward accountability, and we will continue to pursue prosecutions against companies and individuals who pollute the environment.”
 An employee with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection discovered an open valve at a waste water storage tank during an inspection in 2010. The EPA estimated 6,300 and 57,373 gallons of waste water discharged 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, which fined the company $100,000 for violations of the Clean Water Act.
Also, under the earlier agreement with the EPA, XTO Energy agreed to spend an estimated $20 million to improve its wastewater disposal methods in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This includes a remote monitoring system for all of its wells and wastewater storage tanks in the two states.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane filed criminal charges against XTO in 2013 for violations of the state’s Clean Streams Law and Solid Waste Management Act.
XTO originally claimed the spill was an act of vandalism, but later said it was likely caused by a contract worker.

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