Trans Energy, Inc. Clean Water Act Settlement
WASHINGTON - (September 2, 2014) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) today announced a settlement with Trans Energy Inc., requiring the oil and gas company to restore portions of streams and wetlands at 15 sites in West Virginia polluted by the company’s unauthorized discharge of dredge or fill material.
Overview of Company
Trans Energy, Inc. is a publically traded corporation with its offices in West Virginia. Trans Energy engages in acquisition, exploration, development and production of oil and natural gas focused in the Marcellus shale of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Its operations are focused in Wetzel, Marshall, Tyler, and Marion Counties in West Virginia.
The complaint alleges violations of Sections 301(a) and 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1311(a) and 1344, which prohibits the discharge of dredge and/or fill material to waters of the United States except in compliance with a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The consent decree resolves unauthorized discharges of dredged and/or fill material at 15 sites in West Virginia. The consent decree also resolves West Virginia state law claims brought by West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
The discharges at 15 of the sites are associated with the construction of facilities related to extraction of natural gas, including well pads, impoundments, road crossings and pipeline crossings.
The alleged violations impacted approximately 13,000 linear feet of stream and 1.329 acres of wetlands.
The injunctive relief includes: (1) restoration and/or appropriate compensatory mitigation where restoration is not feasible; (2) development and implementation of a CWA employee training program; and (3) development and implementation of an operational protocol to be used in West Virginia to assure compliance with Section 404 of the CWA.
Restoration and/or Mitigation
Trans Energy is required to restore all sites where restoration is feasible. The company will monitor all restored sites (up to 10 years) in order to assure the success of the restoration. Additionally, this consent decree includes various requirements intended to permanently preserve the restored sites. The company will also perform compensatory mitigation, which will likely take the form of purchasing credits from a wetland mitigation bank located in the same, or nearby, watershed.
Clean Water Act Employee Training Program
Trans Energy will provide the training on the Clean Water Act to its employees, contractors, and affiliates whose responsibilities include the design and construction or supervision of employees of oil and gas facilities in West Virginia for a period of five years after the entry of this consent decree.
West Virginia Operational Protocol
The company will integrate a CWA Section 404 compliance protocol into its operating procedures in West Virginia. The protocol requires Trans Energy to use a “qualified wetlands professional” to assess all aquatic resources within any proposed limit of disturbance prior to submission of any application to:
- The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for new and expansive construction of well pads or impoundments beyond its currently approved limit of disturbance, and
- The West Virginia Department of Transportation for construction of any associated access road(s).
Additionally, for relevant sites, Trans Energy must prepare an alternatives analysis, design facilities to avoid and minimize impacts to aquatic resources, and implement construction techniques that are certified by a registered professional engineer to ensure rapid stabilization of disturbed earth while assuring appropriate erosion and sediment controls are consistent with State or local erosion requirements, and ensure that no earth disturbance occurs until appropriate permits are obtained pursuant to CWA Section 404 and applicable West Virginia law. Trans Energy will also implement a training for appropriate installation of culverts.
In CWA Section 404 cases, pollutant reduction is measured by the number of linear feet mitigated for streams and the number of acres mitigated for wetlands. The injunctive relief required in this consent decree will mitigate the 13,000 linear feet of stream and 1.329 acres of wetlands impacted Trans Energy’s activities.
Trans Energy will pay a penalty of $3 million, divided equally between the United States and its co-plaintiff, the State of West Virginia. This civil penalty is the second largest ever obtained under the CWA’s provisions prohibiting the discharge of dredged and/or fill material into waters of the United States without a CWA permit.
The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comments is available at the Department of Justice website.
For more information, contact:
Water Enforcement Division
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW (MC-2243A)
Washington, DC 20460