Drilling Wastewater Disposal Options in N.Y. Report Have Problems of Their Own - ProPublica, Joaquin Sapien, and Sabrina Shankman , ProPublica, (2009)


Joaquin Sapien and Sabrina Shankman.  December 29, 2009 ProPublica.

Environmentalists, state regulators and even energy companies agree that the problem most likely to slow natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale in New York is safely disposing of the billions of gallons of contaminated wastewater the industry will produce...

...Of the six injection wells  that operate in New York, only one is licensed to accept oil and gas wastewater. It's owned by Lenape Resources Inc., which uses it exclusively for wastewater from its own gas fields [near Rochester, NY].

See: Do the natural gas industry’s surface water withdrawals pose a health risk?

See: The Effect of the United States Supreme Court's Eleventh Amendment Jurisprudence on Clean Water Act Citizen Suits: Muddied Waters

Congress Launches Investigation Into Gas Drilling Practices, Sabrina Shankman, and Lustgarten Abrahm , ProPublica, (2010)

Rep. Henry Waxman announced Thursday that the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which he chairs, is launching an investigation into potential environmental impacts from hydraulic fracturing. (Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif.

"Two of the largest companies involved in natural gas drilling have acknowledged pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel-based fluids into the ground in the process of hydraulic fracturing, raising further concerns that existing state and federal regulations don't adequately protect drinking water from drilling."

Source: Energy and Commerce Committee Investigates Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing

Gas Drillers Plead Guilty to Felony Dumping Violations, Sabrina Shankman , ProPublica, (2010)


Since Pennsylvania’s gas drilling boom ramped up in 2008, companies have been fined regularly for environmental accidents — $23,500 here for spilling 5,000 gallons of waste, $15,557 there for spilling 295 gallons of hydrochloric acid. The fines often amount to slaps on the wrist for companies that stand to make hefty profits from their wells.

But the penalties just got a lot more serious for an owner of Kansas-based Swamp Angel Energy and for the company’s site supervisor, who pleaded guilty last week to felony violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

As part of a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney for western Pennsylvania, part-owner Michael Evans, 66, of La Quinta, Calif., and John Morgan, 54, of Sheffield, Penn., admitted dumping 200,000 gallons of brine – salty wastewater that’s created in the drilling process – down an abandoned oil well. The maximum penalty for both Evans and Morgan is three years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Sentencing will be June 24. (See follow-up below). Attorneys for both men declined to comment.

Swamp Angel Energy was drilling in the Allegheny National Forest, in McKean County in northwestern Pennsylvania, and the brine was dumped just outside the border of the federal land. In mid-December, a federal judge overturned a ruling that had essentially banned drilling in the Allegheny Forest...

Follow-Up | U.S. EPA Compliance and Enforcement Criminal Case Activities (nz):

EPA's Criminal Enforcement program  investigates and helps to prosecute environmental violations which seriously threaten public health and the environment or involve conduct that may be willful, intentional, or deliberate.

Besides environmental violations, the cases may also have associated U.S. criminal code violations such as conspiracy, false statements, witness tampering, or interfering with a law enforcement investigation. Criminal enforcement sanctions -- which may include incarceration of individuals in addition to monetary fines against individuals, businesses, or corporations represent the enforcement program's strongest sanction and deterrent.

John Morgan and Michael Evans (PDF) (1 pg, 32K)

Acting United States Attorney Robert S. Cessar announced today, June 24, 2010, that a resident of Sheffield, Pennsylvania and a resident of La Quinta, California, have been sentenced in federal court in Erie as a result of their felony convictions for violating the Safe Drinking Water Act by unlawfully injecting brine produced from an oil drilling operation.

United States District Judge Sean J. McLaughlin imposed the sentences on John Morgan, age 54, of Sheffield, Pennsylvania, and Michael Evans, age 66, of La Quinta, California. Mr. Morgan received a sentence of three years probation, a $4,000 fine, eight months home detention and eighty hours community service. Mr. Evans received a sentence of three years probation, a $5,000 fine, ten months home detention and one hundred hours community service.