The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, a division of Chesapeake Energy, the second largest gas producer in the nation, will send an estimated $6.5 million to restore 27 sites damaged by hydraulic fracturing operations.
The company will also pay a civil penalty of $3.2 million for violations of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA prohibits the filling or damming of wetlands, rivers, streams, and other waters in the United States without a federal permit.
The federal government and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) said that the company put a number of fill materials, such as dirt, sand, and rocks into streams and wetlands without a permit from the federal government. The fill materials were placed in order to construct well pads, impoundments, road crossings, and other facilities related to the extraction of natural gas.
The violations take place at 27 sites in West Virginian located in the counties of Boone, Kanawha, Lewis, Marshall, Mingo, Preston, Upshur, and Wetzel. The EPA alleges that the violations impacted approximately 12,000 linear feet of streams, and more than three acres of wetlands.
This settlement requires that Chesapeake Appalachia fully restores the wetlands and streams and monitor the sites for 10 years to assure that restoration will be complete.
The company will also have to implement a comprehensive compliance program that will ensure that it will comply with the CWA and state laws in the future.
"With this agreement, Chesapeake is taking important steps to comply with state and federal laws that are essential to protecting the integrity of the nation's waters, wetlands and streams," said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We will continue to ensure that oil and gas development, including development through the use of hydraulic-fracturing techniques, complies with the Clean Water Act and other applicable federal laws."
The settlement will also resolve alleged violations of state laws in West Virginia brought by the WVDEP. The state is a co-plaintiff and will receive half of the civil penalty.
"Wetlands and streams serve important roles in the aquatic ecosystem by supporting aquatic life and wildlife. Wetlands also play a valuable role in recharging our groundwater and drinking supplies, and reducing flood risks," said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. "This case sends a clear message that EPA and other federal and state regulatory agencies will do what is necessary to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act and to protect these valuable resources and the health of our communities."
To learn more about this settlement, click here.