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Pa Environment Digest Sept. 16, 2013

Pa Environment Digest Sept. 16, 2013

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A weekly newsletter on environmental issues facing Pennsylvania, including Marcellus Shale natural gas development.
A weekly newsletter on environmental issues facing Pennsylvania, including Marcellus Shale natural gas development.

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Published by: www.PaEnvironmentDigest.com on Sep 14, 2013
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09/14/2013

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PA Environment Digest
An Update On Environmental Issues In PA
Edited By: David E. Hess, Crisci Associates
Winner 2009PAEE Business PartnerOf The Year Award
 
Harrisburg, Pa September 16, 2013Federal Court Upholds Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Blueprint
Pennsylvania Federal Judge Sylvia Rambo Friday issued a rulingupholding Bay cleanup efforts, andrejecting the arguments of the Farm Bureau the National Homebuilders Association, and other bigagriculture interests.The ruling affirmed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working with the states, has theauthority to set science-based pollution limits.“This is a great day for clean water in the region, there could be no better outcome,” saidChesapeake Bay FoundationPresident William C. Baker. “CBF and our partners respectfully salute thethoughtful legal decision making by Judge Rambo, the presiding federal judge in the United StatesDistrict Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.”Less than two weeks after EPA established pollution limits f or the Bay, as required by the CleanWater Act for any body of water not meeting specific water quality standards, The American FarmBureau Federation and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau filed a complaint in federal court to throw out thelimits – known legally in the Clean Water Act as a Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL. Not long after the original complaint was filed, the two initiating groups were joined by the National Association of Home Builders, the National Chicken Council, the National Corn GrowersAssociation, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Turkey Federation, The Fertilizer Institute, and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.CBF and its partners intervened in the lawsuit to protect the clean up. The partners includedCitizen’s for Pennsylvania’s Future, Defenders of Wildlife, Jefferson County (WV) Public ServiceDistrict, Midshore River Keeper Conservancy, and the National Wildlife Federation.“As one of the 17 million people who live near a river or stream flowing to the ChesapeakeBay, I am thrilled that the court ruled in favor of clean water, fishable rivers and safe places for childrento swim, said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The courtmade it clear the agency is authorized to continue doing what is necessary to reduce pollution enteringthe Chesapeake Bay and protect the water that sustains people, wildlife and livelihoods. Thescience-based standards create accountability and are leading to real results.”In the case, known as American Farm Bureau et al v. EPA, the plaintiffs made three complaints:(1) that the pollution limits or TMDL exceeded EPA’s authority, (2) that they were based on faultyscience, and (3) that the plaintiff did not have adequate time to participate in the comment process.Judge Rambo found against them on all points.“Clean water is the legacy I want to leave to my children and grandchildren. Restoring clean
 
water puts people to work and strengthens our economies,” Baker said. “We call on the opposition tocease their attempts to derail the clean-up efforts, lay aside expensive litigation, and roll up their sleevesand work with us for clean rivers and streams across the region.”Jim Abernathy, interim president and chief executive officer of PennFuture, says "PennFuture is pleased that the court has upheld EPA's authority to issue the plan that will clean up polluted rivers andstreams in Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay."“Everyone -- farmers and homeowners, rural and urban -- all realize clean water is vital to their community and to their economy. Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy joined this lawsuit to representthe voice of rural areas and small towns. We don’t know what purpose this suit was meant to serve butit was not in most people’s interests,” said Tim Junkin, Midshore Riverkeeper executive director. “Weare thrilled that EPA has prevailed. It is a critical time and the clean water blueprint offers a newapproach and requires that everyone does their fair share to clean up our local waters.”“The court’s decision is great news for fish and wildlife that depend on a healthy Bay for their survival. If implemented properly, the rule has the potential to significantly improve the ecological healthof the Bay for the benefit of wildlife and people alike,” said Michael Senatore, Vice President for Conservation Law at Defenders of Wildlife.Click Hereto see how Pennsylvania is doing in meeting its Chesapeake Bay cleanupcommitments.
Attorney General Files Criminal Charges Against XTO Energy Drilling Company
TheAttorney General's OfficeTuesday announced charges against a Pennsylvania subsidiary of ExxonMobil for illegally discharging more than 50,000 gallons of toxic wastewater from a MarcellusShale gas well site in Penn Township, Lycoming County.Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane identified the company as XTO Energy Inc., 395 AirportRoad, Indiana, Pa. Evidence and testimony was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury, whichrecommended the criminal charges being filed.XTO owns the Marquardt well site in Penn Township, which contains two natural gas wells onthe site. During natural gas extraction, these wells produce waste water containing toxic substances,such as chlorides, barium, strontium and aluminum. XTO allegedly stored this waste water in21,000-gallon storage tanks at the Marquardt site for subsequent processing.The grand jury found that XTO hired a company to recycle waste water at the Marquardt sitefrom Nov. 4, 2010 through Nov. 11, 2010. After that one-week period, XTO directed that companyto remove their processing equipment from the site and transport it to another XTO well site in WestVirginia.However, XTO allegedly continued to transport and store gas well waste water at theMarquardt site despite not having the proper equipment on site to safely store or process it.The illegal discharge of gas well waste water was discovered on Nov. 16, 2010, when aninspector with the Department of Environmental Protection made an unannounced visit to the Marquardtsite.According to the grand jury, during that visit a DEP inspector discovered that a rear dischargevalve on a storage tank had been opened and a drain plug had been removed, causing gas well wastewater to flow out of the storage tank onto the ground. There also was evidence of prior waste water 
 
discharges from other storage tanks at the Marquardt site.The grand jury found that between November 12-16, 2010 more than 93,000 gallons of wastewater was transported to and stored at the Marquardt site, of which approximately 57,000 gallons wasunaccounted for following the spill.Kane said that the toxic waste water flowed into and polluted an unnamed tributary of Sugar Run. As a result of the spill, DEP required more than 3,000 tons of contaminated soil to be excavatedand removed from the Marquardt siteXTO allegedly failed to place a spill containment system under any of the storage tanks at theMarquardt site; failed to lock or otherwise secure any of the storage tanks on site; and failed to utilizeany security measures to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing the Marquardt site.According to the grand jury, XTO did not have a permit to discharge wastewater at theMarquardt site and failed to report any waste water spills to DEP as required by law.XTO Energy Inc. is charged with five counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Lawand three counts of unlawful conduct under the Solid Waste Management Act.Kane thanked the Department of Environmental Protection for their assistance with theinvestigation.The case will be prosecuted in Lycoming County by Chief Deputy Glenn A. Parno of theAttorney General's Environmental Crimes Section.
Company Reaction
XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corporation, said today it willchallenge criminal charges filed by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, regardinga November 2010 spill of produced water from a temporary storage tank being used during a water recycling operation in Lycoming County.Criminal charges are unwarranted and legally baseless because neither XTO nor any of itsemployees intentionally, recklessly or negligently discharged produced water on the site.XTO acted quickly and cooperatively with state and federal authorities to clean up the produced water.There was no lasting environmental impact and the site has been fully remediated in accordancewith guidance of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection.The criminal charges filed by the Attorney General are unprecedented and an abuse of  prosecutorial discretion. There was no intentional, reckless, or negligent misconduct by XTO. Theincident did not result in significant or lasting environmental harm.Charging XTO under these circumstances could discourage good environmental practices, suchas recycling. The action tells oil and gas operators that setting up infrastructure to recycle producedwater exposes them to the risk of significant legal and financial penalties should a small release occur.XTO has already agreed with federal authorities on reasonable civil penalties and preventativesteps to avoid future accidents of this type. Without admission of liability, on July 18, 2013, a consentdecree regarding the discharge was signed between XTO and the U.S. Department of Justice and theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency.The Department of Justice conducted a full investigation for more than a year and concludedthat criminal charges were not warranted. An investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is ongoing.
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