By NEWS9, December 3, 2012
Chesapeake Appalachia was sentenced Monday in federal court for three violations of the Clean Water Act related to natural gas drilling activity in Wetzel County, according to a news release from United States Attorney William Ihlenfeld II.
U.S. District Judge Frederick P. Stamp, Jr. ordered that Chesapeake pay a fine of $600,000 and be placed onto supervised release for a period of two years as a result of the three criminal convictions.
In October, Chesapeake pleaded guilty to three counts of Unauthorized Discharge into a Water of the United States.
The natural gas company admitted to dumping 60 tons of crushed stone and gravel into Blake Run in Wetzel County at least three times in December 2008. The government said Chesapeake built a road across the creek to make easier access to a Marcellus Shale drilling site, which filled in three wetlands and destroyed a natural waterfall.
“The defendants knowingly and repeatedly obliterated sensitive wetlands,” David G. McLeod, Jr., special agent in charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in West Virginia, said in the release. “Companies and their managers who try to skirt the law to save money undermine our efforts to protect the public and the environment. Make no mistake, they will be vigorously prosecuted.”
The release stated he parties agreed that “separate violations committed by Chesapeake and occurring in connection with impoundments constructed in Marshall and Wetzel Counties would be addressed by civil penalties and not via criminal charges. Efforts to resolve the civil claims against Chesapeake are ongoing.”
In response to citizen complaints and other information, the EPA has conducted a series of inspections at sites operated by Chesapeake Appalachia LLC in northern West Virginia. As a result of those inspections, the EPA has issued 11 administrative compliance orders. At this time, Chesapeake has complied with and/or sought and received extensions for all requirements of the orders.
In addition to announcing Chesapeake’s sentence, Ihlenfeld on Monday also announced the formation of the West Virginia Natural Resource Watch Group.
The new task force will include representatives from federal, state, and local agencies and will have its first meeting on Dec. 13.
“The agencies will work together to promote consistent communication, information sharing and good working relationships among law enforcement and regulatory agencies. It will also identify suspected violations of local, state, and federal environmental laws, coordinate prosecution efforts, and provide training,” the release stated.
Ihlenfeld said group expects to focus on violations of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as well as illegal disposal of hazardous waste, tampering with drinking water supplies, and other federal criminal violations that have an impact on the environment.