PITTSBURGH (AP) — Energy company Range Resources said Thursday it has agreed to pay a $4.15 million fine for environmental violations at a western Pennsylvania site that handled natural gas drilling waste.
The penalty is the largest the state has ever imposed on the shale gas industry.
Range, based in Fort Worth, Texas, said in a statement that it accepts the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection fine and is "deeply disappointed" over the violations at Washington County wastewater impoundments, about 25 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.
The fine was imposed for leaks at open pits Range operates to store the so-called flowback waste from natural gas wells. The liquid waste can include naturally occurring ultra-salty brine water, heavy metals, and chemicals used in the drilling process. Range said much of the water was filtered before it went into the pits.
Department Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo said the landmark agreement "establishes a new, higher benchmark for companies" and is "an environmental win" for Pennsylvania. He said the leaks have not impacted nearby drinking water, but some nearby residents have complained about the waste pits for years.
The violations took place at six impoundments between 2009 and 2014. Under the agreement, Range will close five of the wastewater impoundments and upgrade two others to meet new standards that the state is developing.
The agreement also requires Range to remediate any contamination that is found.
Range said that tests found elevated levels of chlorides, or salt, and that some of the impoundments have been out of service for several years and were already being reclaimed.