An oil and gas developer with hundreds of wells in Warren County has been fined $185,000 by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
According to a Wednesday DEP release, Catalyst Energy Inc. was fined for "a number of violations at its non-Marcellus oil and gas well operations in Forest, McKean and Warren counties."
Six of the eight wells cited are in Forest County. The others are in Warren and McKean counties.
The Warren County well is located off of Telic Run Road in Brokenstraw Township. It is one of 405 wells attributed to Catalyst, according to the DEP website. Catalyst has 721 wells in McKean County and 496 in Forest County.
According to DEP Information Specialist Kevin Sunday, the Warren County violations stemmed from incidents in 2010.
"On May 12, 2010, there was a release of drill cuttings at the Day West 1153 Well in Brokenstraw," Sunday said. "Our inspections determined that these drill cuttings were released into an unnamed tributary of Telic Run."
The drill cuttings are designated as an industrial or residual waste, Sunday said. That makes the discharge a violation of the Clean Streams Law.
The violations spanned February 2010 through November 2011.
"There are eight well sites that had fluid spills over the past two years," Sunday said. "We made sure that very shortly after each of those spills happened the sites were remediated and cleaned up as needed. In other words, there were steps in between the violation taking place and this agreement. This agreement formally closes out our enforcement actions for these spills."
In each case, Catalyst was required to take the appropriate corrective actions.
The Forest County violations included:
"frac fluids were discharged to the ground that flowed into a spring serving a nearby water supply" on Feb. 3, 2010; "crude oil was discharged onto the ground and into an unnamed tributary of Beaver Run" on April 29, 2010;
"Catalyst contends that less than one quart of oil was released" on May 6, 2010, as "crude oil and frac fluids were discharged onto the ground, and that a temporary waste containment pit was not being operated to maintain two feet of freeboard";
"crude oil was discharged from a stock tank into a diked area of secondary containment, the crude oil seeped through the dike and traveled approximately 100 feet across the ground, and the stock tanks located near the... well did not have adequate secondary containment" in a May 20, 2010, incident Catalyst attributes to vandalism;
"crude oil was discharged onto the ground at the site" on Feb. 1, 2011, for which the company received a Relief of Liability Letter from the department;
"crude oil was discharged to the ground at the site during preparation for hydrofracturing operations" on Nov. 2, 2011;
and "hydraulic oil was discharged to the ground..." on Nov. 15, 2011.
At the McKean County well in question, DEP reported, "Catalyst believes that the incident was a result of vandalism. In that Feb. 25, 2010, event, "crude oil leaked onto the ground from a gathering line near the site and discharged into Three-Mile Creek."
Crude oil, frac fluids, and hydraulic oil are listed, like drill cuttings, as industrial and residual wastes.
According to the consent order filed in the case, "elevated combustible gas levels and concentrations of iron, manganese and/or dissolved methane gas" in water supplies at 14 properties in the Yellow Hammer area of Forest County constituted pollution.
According to DEP, "Catalyst installed water treatment systems and conducted cleanouts of some of the wells, restoring the water supplies, and returned other water supplies to pre-drill conditions through other work on the company's wells" and has 60 days to submit a plan to address the remaining eight water supplies.
On top of the fines and cleanup, through the end of the year, Catalyst will not be able to move forward with development activity until DEP is satisfied that the company's operations are in full compliance with the regulations.
"Catalyst has paid the penalty and is working under a negotiated timetable to rectify these violations," DEP Northwest Regional Director Kelly Burch said. "The company must also demonstrate it is in total compliance before drilling or completing more wells."
"If they are seeking to drill or complete a well in Warren county, they need our authorization first," Sunday said.
A representative of Catalyst Energy said those who could comment on the situation were not available Wednesday afternoon.