Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection levied a $310,000 fine against Canonsburg-based CNX Gas Company (CNX) and its pipeline subsidiary CNX Midstream Partners (CNXM) for several environmental violations on the Morris to McQuay Phase 2 Reroute Pipeline project in Washington County.
The violations were from Aug. 26, 2016, to Aug. 16, 2018, and are largely concerning two major wastewater spills and general lack of compliance in operations on the pipeline. According to the DEP, CNX is being fined for:
· “spills totaling 43 gallons of drilling mud (comprised of bentonite slurry) into Boothe Run;
· Ineffective and inadequately maintained erosion and sedimentation best management practices and slope failures along the construction of the MOR 31 to Morris and McQuay Phase 2 Reroute that caused slides outside of the pipeline’s limit of disturbance, and contributed to destabilization of a fill slope of a nearby well pad that were later temporarily stabilized; and,
· An approximately 630-gallon brine spill along the pipeline route that was later remediated per DEP policy."
Additionally, CNX reported another brine spill in August 2018, this one a cracked wastewater pipeline that leaked an estimated 2,100 gallons of brine into an “unnamed tributary.” CNX repaired the pipe, took samples of water and soil, and backfilled the area with clean soil. In its evaluation, DEP found “stressed and dead” vegetation, and issued notice to CNX to identify and monitor all water supplies within 3,000 feet of the cracked pipe, and to install groundwater monitoring wells in the same area.
In ensuring compliance with these orders, the DEP became aware of additional inadequacies, this time in the preparation and implementation of their Preparedness Prevention Contingency (PPC) plans, which are created to prevent leaks and mitigate damages in the event of one. According to the DEP, CNX “totally failed to identify the waste fluids transported or measures to monitor or respond to pipeline releases”.
As a result, through a Consent Order Agreement, DEP fined CNX for its failures and required the company to take other corrective actions based on existing policy, as well as a third-party independent audit of its water management activities. The funds will be placed into PA’s Oil and Gas Fund which is used for other environmental maintenance activities.
In a press release regarding the fine, DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell noted that “for DEP, enforcing environmental laws goes beyond correcting violations and collecting civil penalties. The department successfully uses these agreements to gather data used to improve our industry oversight and drive operational changes beyond what the law requires to strengthen environmental safeguards more broadly”.