Range Resources has agreed to pay a civil penalty of almost $200,000 to resolve air quality violations at two Washington County well pads.
In a press release, the state Department of Environmental Resources said it reached the consent order and agreement with Range over violations in 2013, 2014, and 2015 at the Costanzo 1H and 2H well sites in Mt. Pleasant Township at the Cross Creek County Park 6H and 8H well sites in Cross Creek Township. The park is a popular county-owned recreational facility.
The well pads contained storage tanks and equipment that emitted volatile organic compounds. Under state and federal regulations, any source that emits more than 50 tons of VOCs per year must be permitted as a “major source” of air pollution under Title V of the Clean Air Act.
VOC emissions are a serious public health issue. VOCs are precursors to the formation of ground-level ozone, which is a public health and welfare hazard because it is a respiratory irritant. According to the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), inhaling ground-level ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and airway inflammation. It also can reduce lung function, harm lung tissue, and further irritate those with issues like asthma and bronchitis. People most at risk include people with asthma, children, and older adults.
Range did not apply for a Title V permit for either facility. However, when it conducted an internal self-audit for all its facilities using a more conservative measuring methodology than it had previously used, it determined that the recalculated emissions at the Costanzo site were higher than reported and exceeded 50 tons per year in 2013 and 2014, regardless of which method of calculation was used. Using the more conservative method, the Cross Creek park site’s emissions exceeded 50 tons in 2014.
Range subsequently installed air-cleaning devices at the facilities to lower the VOC emissions without first receiving approval from the DEP to do so. The equipment did reduce the VOC emissions to a level below the Title V level.
When Range self-reported the violations to the DEP, the agency requested data on all the company’s facilities but determined that this was an isolated incident.
Range must pay a total of $198,920 in emissions fees for the year that the facilities exceeded the Title V limits, and penalties and interest. The penalty will be paid to the state’s Clean Air Fund. Mt. Pleasant Township can receive $21,293 and Cross Creek, $20,744, for approved projects that will reduce air pollution or improve recreation.