Chesapeake Energy subsidiary to pay fine for dumping into W.Va. streams
By Tory N. Parrish
Published: Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, 4:33 p.m.
A subsidiary of the nation's second-largest natural gas producer will pay a civil penalty of $3.2 million for clean water violations in West Virginia, two federal agencies said on Thursday.
The penalty against Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, a subsidiary of Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp., is one of the largest by the federal government for violations of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, according to the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Chesapeake Appalachia LLC has reached a key milestone in the settlement process to resolve federal and state claims relating to surface construction activities that occurred in West Virginia prior to November 2010,” company spokesman Gordon Pennoyer said in a prepared statement. “The company is fully committed to regulatory compliance and is working with the Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to restore the impacted sites.”
In addition to the penalty, Chesapeake Appalachia will spend an estimated $6.5 million to restore 27 sites the federal government and West Virginia allege were damaged by unauthorized discharges of fill material into streams and wetlands, the federal agencies said.
The consent decree resolves unauthorized discharges at the sites in Boone, Kanawha, Lewis, Marshall, Mingo, Preston, Upshur and Wetzel counties, the federal agencies said.
Chesapeake Appalachia must implement a plan to comply with federal and state water protection laws at the company's natural gas extraction sites in West Virginia, the federal agencies said.
Most of the discharges subject to the consent decree are related to the construction of fracking facilities, but none of them involved actual fracking, said Donna Heron, spokeswoman for the EPA's Mid-Atlantic region.
“In doing the construction, that's where they were discharging fill material into the wetlands and the streams. And that's what the violations were about,” she said.
The violations of the Clean Water Act involved discharges done without required Army Corps of Engineers permits, said Tom Aluise, spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
Chesapeake Appalachia produces and transports natural gas in the Appalachian Basin. The company has oil and natural gas properties in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
West Virginia, which is a co-plaintiff in the settlement, will receive half of the civil penalty.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval.
In a related case, in December 2012, Chesapeake Appalachia pleaded guilty to three violations of the Clean Water Act for unauthorized discharge of dredge and/or fill material at a site in Wetzel County and paid a $600,000 penalty, the EPA said.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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