EPA Settles CWA Case for Wetlands Violations in West Virginia

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has entered into a Clean Water Act (CWA) administrative consent agreement and final order (CAFO) with PDC Mountaineer, LLC (PDCM) to resolve violations involving construction activities at Marcellus Shale gas extraction facilities in northern West Virginia.

The settlement requires PDCM to pay a penalty of $177,500. Also, the company is restoring and/or completing mitigation projects at four sites pursuant to three separate CWA administrative orders incorporated into the CAFO.

The EPA conducted two site inspections on Dec. 11, 2011 and March 28, 2012 at the D?Annunzio Well Pad and the Hudkins Well Pad in Harrison County, W. Va. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires persons wishing to discharge fill material into wetlands or streams to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In this case, the company failed to apply for or receive a Section 404 permit. In addition, information subsequently provided by the company revealed more violations along the course of two pipelines which will ultimately transport gas extracted by PDCM.

Unpermitted activities included the filling, relocating and placement of culverts in streams and the filling of wetlands. The violations at the four sites resulted in adverse impacts to nearly an acre of emergent and forested wetlands. There are permanent impacts to more than 1,500 lf of stream, and temporary impacts to more than 3,000 lf of streams. Mitigation for the wetland and stream impacts includes a combination of restoration, mitigation and the purchase of wetland credits from a mitigation bank. The affected wetlands and streams ultimately flow into the West Fork River, which is part of the Monongahela River Basin.

Wetlands are a scarce resource in West Virginia, occupying less than 0.4 percent of West Virginia?s land surface area. Since 1780, over 24 percent of West Virginia?s wetlands have been lost. Wetlands are vital to protecting the integrity of our rivers and estuaries by providing a natural filtration system for pollution before it gets into rivers, lakes and ponds, and by preventing flooding after storms. They also provide important fish and wildlife habitat. While progress has been made in recent years to reverse the trend, wetlands continue to be threatened.

The streams involved in this case were mostly headwater streams, the small creeks and streams that are the origin of most rivers. Headwater streams function to store floodwater, reduce sediment and provide an important source of freshwater dilution to downstream waters.

PDCM is headquartered in Bridgeport, W.Va., and is a joint venture between PDC and Lime Rock Partners, L.P., a private equity firm. It was formed to explore and develop Marcellus Shale gas deposits. As part of the settlement, the company did not admit to violating the CWA.

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