WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 3, 2014 -- On Tuesday, Sept. 2, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), and Department of Justice (DOJ) 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 its unauthorized discharge of dredge or fill material.
Trans Energy will pay a penalty of $3 million to be divided equally between the federal government and WVDEP. The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires a company to obtain a permit from EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prior to discharging dredge or fill material into wetlands, rivers, streams, and other waters of the United States.
In addition to the penalty, the company will reconstruct impacted aquatic resources or address impacts at 15 sites, provide appropriate compensatory mitigation for impacts to streams and wetlands, and implement a comprehensive program to ensure future compliance with Section 404 of the CWA and applicable state law.
Among other requirements, the company will work to ensure that all aquatic resources are identified prior to starting work on future projects in West Virginia, and that appropriate consideration is given at the design stage to avoid and minimize impacts to aquatic resources. It is estimated that Trans Energy will spend more than $13 million to complete the restoration and mitigation work required by the consent decree.
The federal government and WVDEP allege that the company impounded streams and discharged sand, dirt, rocks, and other materials into streams and wetlands without a federal permit to construct well pads, impoundments, road crossings, and other facilities related to natural gas extraction. The government alleges the violations impacted approximately 13,000 linear feet of stream and more than an acre of wetlands.
Filling wetlands illegally and damming streams can result in serious environmental consequences. Streams, rivers and wetlands benefit the environment by reducing flood risks, filtering pollutants, recharging groundwater and drinking water supplies, and providing food and habitat for aquatic species.
EPA discovered the violations in 2011 and 2012 through information provided by WVDEP and the public and through routine field inspections. In summer 2014, the company conducted an internal audit and ultimately disclosed to EPA alleged violations at eight additional locations, which are also being resolved through this Consent Decree.