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DEP Announces Agreement with Range Resources for Air Quality Violations in Washington County

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Tuesday announced in a press release that it executed a Consent Assessment of Civil Penalty with Range Resources-Appalachia, LLC (Range Resources) in the amount of $198,920 for violations of state regulations and the Air Pollution Control Act.

The violations occurred in 2013, 2014, and 2015 at the operator’s Costanzo 1H and 2H and Cross Creek County Park 6H and 8H unconventional natural gas well pads located in Mount Pleasant and Cross Creek townships, Washington County, respectively. As part of this settlement, the municipalities where the violations occurred are eligible to receive funding for air quality or other environmental projects.

Each facility contains storage tanks and associated equipment that may emit volatile organic compounds (VOC), which the operator is required to report annually to DEP. Range Resources exceeded the potential to emit 50-ton or more of VOC threshold that would have qualified both sites as Title V facilities and subjected each to major source permitting requirements. Range Resources failed to apply for or receive a Title V permit. The operator then installed air cleaning devices to reduce VOC emissions from storage tanks and associated equipment at the facilities without first applying for or receiving authorization.

However, installation of these air cleaning devices was successful in reducing potential VOC emissions to a level below the Title V permitting threshold—a significant reduction from 2013-2015 emissions—and making the sites eligible for certain regulatory permitting exemptions. During its investigation, DEP requested data on all of Range Resources’ facilities to determine if this was a widespread issue and determined that it was an isolated incident.

In August 2015, Range Resources reported to DEP that in connection with an internal self-audit, the operator recalculated its annual emissions utilizing a more conservative (i.e. higher emission estimating) and generally accepted methodology than it previously utilized for 2013, 2014, and 2015 for all of its facilities. Generally, the recalculated emissions were higher than previously reported. The recalculated Costanzo site’s VOC emissions exceeded 50 tons per year in 2013 and 2014 regardless of which method was used and using the more conservative methodology the Cross Creek County Park site’s VOC emissions exceeded 50 tons per year in 2014.

Range Resources is responsible for paying emission fees for years that VOC emissions exceed the Title V threshold, and a penalty and associated interest because the fees were not timely paid. In addition, civil penalties were assessed for the violations. The payment of civil penalties, fees, and interest will go into the Pennsylvania Clean Air Fund, and a portion of the civil penalty will be eligible to be disbursed to the communities where the violations occurred. In accordance with Act 57 of 2011, Cross Creek Township will be eligible to receive $20,744 and Mount Pleasant Township will be eligible to receive $21,293. The townships must submit project proposals for DEP approval:
• to eliminate or reduce air pollution,
• for parks, recreation, trails, or open space projects, or
• opt to have the county seek the funding for a proposed project.

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