Pennsylvania environmental regulators fined oil and gas companies $2.5 million last year for violations at well sites and pipeline routes.

The 2013 total was the third highest in the three decades of oil and gas penalties the Department of Environmental Protection tracks in its public compliance report, according to State Impact, a reporting project of NPR.

Oil and gas companies were fined higher amounts only in 2010 ($2.7 million) and 2011 ($2.6 million), according to the database.

Many violations are years old and have been resolved by the time regulators decide on a penalty, which can encompass dozens of problems at separate sites, the report said.

The DEP assessed 135 separate fines, it said in its oil and gas compliance report last year.

DEP spokesman Eric Shirk told State Impact the agency can combine multiple violations by a company into one penalty assessment rather than issuing separate fines.

“Williams Companies, through three pipeline subsidiaries, paid the most in fines in 2013 for excess erosion and drilling mud spills into creeks during pipeline construction and underground boring operations, the report said.

“Williams was not responsible for the Laser violations, which happened before Williams bought the company in 2012, but Williams assumed Laser’s liabilities and paid the fine,” State Impact said.

Seneca Resources Corp. paid the second largest total amount in 2013: $377,000. It was fined seven times for 59 violations from February 2010 to March 2013.

“The company operates both conventional and unconventional wells in the state and the fines settled violations in northwestern and north-central Pennsylvania. More than half of the violations were associated with sites on public lands,” State Impact said.

Seneca spokesman Rob Boulware said the fines were principally focused on three incidents: “a road collapse during extreme weather conditions in 2011, a fuel spill which led to a fairly involved clean-up but caused no pollution of any water resource,” and “a spill that resulted from vandalism.”

Other companies that were fined the largest amounts last year include PVR Partners ($170,000), U.S. Energy Development Corp. ($150,000), Antero Resources ($148,250), Pennsylvania General Energy ($125,500), Range Resources ($120,050), Schreiner Oil & Gas ($112,000), XTO Energy ($74,261), and Chesapeake Energy ($71,362).

The full report is here.


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