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DEP Penalizes Energy Corporation of America for Drilling Violations

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has collected a $1.7 million civil penalty prescribed in a consent order and agreement with Energy Corporation of America (ECA) for violations at 17 well sites in Greene and Clearfield counties.

ECA was penalized for violations including: failure to properly contain fluids in onsite pits, unauthorized discharge of industrial waste into groundwater, unauthorized disposal of residual waste, failure to restore the pits and well sites, and operating solid waste storage, treatment, and transfer facilities without permits.

“Laws and regulations on the books and strong permitting are in place to protect the public and our natural resources,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said. “When we uncovered systemic violations of proper handling practices of flowback fluids, our compliance team conducted a thorough investigation to hold the operator accountable.”

An investigation by DEP from 2015 to 2017 uncovered incidents of leaking pits and wastewater impoundments at several of ECA’s well sites and demonstrated ECA’s mismanagement of drilling, flowback, and produced fluids.

The investigation showed the ECA transferred drilling fluids from well site to well site after the last well at these sites was completed, making these sites an unlawful waste transfer station. The same fluids were stored in onsite pits for more than nine months after drilling was completed, violating site restoration regulations. DEP determined that ECA transferred, stored, and treated fluids at these sites despite the fact that the fluids weren’t used for any well development or drilling activity onsite.

Waste fluids have been removed from all sites and remediation work is ongoing, with the agreement outlining sites for priority remediation. ECA is ordered to do the following:

  • Close open onsite pits by removing and reusing or properly disposing of all fluids, removing and properly disposing of liners, sludge, and impacted soils, managing precipitation, and managing residual solids;
  • Monitor on a quarterly basis any water supplies within 3,000 feet of the well pads with open pits and manager precipitation into the pits until the pits are closed;
  • Provide DEP with written records of reuse, disposal, or treatments of all fluids, waste, and soils removed from the sites;
  • Restore all well sites with open onsite pits; and
  • Assess and remediate all sites with open or closed pits according to the Land Recycling Act or Act 2 standards.