COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Dept. of Environmental Protection, Commonwealth News Bureau Press Release September 18, 2014
John Poister, DEP
DEP Fines Range Resources $4.15 Million for Violating Environmental Regulations, Consent order and agreement will close five Washington County impoundments
PITTSBURGH — The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced it has signed a wide-ranging consent order and agreement with Range Resources for violations at six of its Washington County impoundments.
The consent order requires the company to pay a $4.15 million fine, the largest against an oil and gas operator in the state’s shale drilling era, close five impoundments and upgrade two other impoundments to meet heightened “next generation” standards currently under development at DEP. … Violations at the impoundments include various releases of contaminants, such as leaking flowback that affected soil and groundwater.
To date there has been no impact on drinking water from any of these impoundments.
Under the consent order, Range Resources will immediately begin the closure of the Hopewell Township 11 (Lowry), Cecil Township 23 (Worstell), and Kearns impoundments. Range Resources will also continue the closure of the Yeager impoundment. The company must close the Hopewell Township 12 (Bednarski) impoundment by April 1, 2015.
Additionally, the consent order also directs Range Resources to upgrade two other impoundments. The liner systems at the Chartiers Township 16 (Carol Baker) and Amwell Township 15 (Jon Day) impoundments will be completely redesigned and rebuilt to meet “next generation” standards currently under development at DEP.
When upgrading the two impoundments, Range Resources will install thicker liners than are currently required, an electrically conductive geomembrane that will allow better identification of potential leaks and a real-time leak detection system. Range will also fully investigate and remediate any groundwater contamination caused by the previous operation of the impoundments.
Another impoundment, Mount Pleasant Township 17 (Carter), will be limited to storing only fresh water for as long as it remains in service. Range will also install a groundwater monitoring well network at the impoundment now and will perform an environmental site assessment at this impoundment once it is permanently closed.
The company will be required to report to DEP quarterly on the progress of the shutdown and remediation of the sites.
The consent order also requires Range Resources to immediately begin soil and groundwater investigations at each of the closed impoundments to determine what, if any, impact there was from their operation of the impoundments. If contamination is found, the company is required to remediate the sites. [Emphasis added]
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During the taped interview McKee repeatedly accused Ernst of airing the board’s dirty laundry in public.
“What you are doing is, hey, I don’t want to make it sound like people are a bunch of sensitive, you know, but at the end of the day, you are, you seem to be, attempting to humiliate the organization. And if that is your intention good on you, but don’t expect us to help you,” McKee told Ernst.
[Recorded by Ernst with Rick McKee’s permission during the regulator’s McCarthy-like interrogation and intimidation of Ernst on June 8, 2006]
Last Stop for High Profile Fracking Suit: Supreme Court, In striking Ernst appeal, Alberta court wraps blanket of immunity around regulator
The Alberta Court of Appeal has effectively ruled that one of the nation’s most powerful regulators can violate the nation’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms by banishing citizens and falsely branding them as a security threats.
Alberta fracking case could go to Supreme Court
A legal fight over contaminated water and hydraulic fracturing could wind up before the Supreme Court.
Jessica Ernst has lost an appeal to sue the Alberta energy regulator over fracking on her property northeast of Calgary. But she still says her charter rights have been violated, and she plans to take that fight to the Supreme Court. She says all Canadians should be concerned about this.
“It is our water and it is the big picture that’s being violated, it is the public interest that the fracking companies are harming,” says Ernst. “The health care costs of treating the workers alone that are getting sick will be massive, never mind the families.”
Last fall an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench judge ruled that Ernst can’t sue the energy regulator because it is immune from private legal claims. On Monday, the Alberta Court of Appeal upheld that ruling.
Ernst says her water is so contaminated that it burns skin. She plans to continue her lawsuit against the province and Encana, claiming they are responsible for chemicals getting into her water supply, because of fracking.
“I wouldn’t be doing this lawsuit if it was just my water well,” says Ernst. “That would be a total waste of time because our legal system is so against an ordinary person with a lawsuit in this country. I’m doing it because people’s drinking water is being contaminated everywhere they’re fracking. My case isn’t the only one.”
Ernst has 60 days to file for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. Her lawyers have told her maybe one in ten cases are actually heard by the Supreme Court, but she wants to go ahead.
Alberta Court of Appeal rules that Alberta’s key energy regulator cannot be sued by citizens – even if it breaches constitutional rights
The Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that Alberta’s key energy regulator cannot be sued by citizens – even if it breaches constitutional rights. In a judgment released today in a landmark lawsuit by Jessica Ernst against EnCana, Alberta Environment and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB, now AER) regarding water contamination caused by fracing, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that the Alberta government had granted complete and total legal immunity to Alberta’s key regulator, the ERCB, against all legal claims, including for violations of constitutional rights.
The Court also ruled that the ERCB does not owe any legally enforceable duties to protect individual landowners from the harmful effects of fracing, after the ERCB argued in court that it had total immunity for “not only negligence, but gross negligence, bad faith and even deliberate acts,” and therefore Albertans simply could not sue the ERCB, no matter how badly they were harmed by the ERCB’s acts or failures to act.
Ms. Ernst will seek leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“I think Albertans will be disturbed to learn that their energy regulator has total and blanket legal immunity, even in cases where the regulator has breached the fundamental and constitutional free speech rights of a landowner,” said Murray Klippenstein, lead legal counsel for Ms. Ernst.
“I’ll be seeking leave to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court. These are critical issues that affect all Canadians,” said Jessica Ernst. “I will continue to fight for what’s right.”
The lawsuit against Alberta Environment and Encana continues.
Appeal court set to rule on ERCB’s charter immunity at centre of fracking lawsuit
Ernst tells 630CHED’s Brenton Driedger she’s appealing a previous court ruling that an immunity clause exempted the ERCB from claims of breaching the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. …
In its attempt to shut down the lawsuit earlier this year, the Alberta government argued the lawsuit could expose the province to billions of dollars in litigation claims.