Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Revokes Permits Issued to Two Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling Companies
On October 28, 2009, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ("DEP") announced that it had revoked three erosion and sedimentation control general permits previously issued to two companies drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation. DEP revoked these permits following an appeal of these permits to the state Environmental Hearing Board ("EHB") by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a non-profit environmental group.
Two of the permits were issued to Ultra Resources, Inc. and the third was issued to Fortuna Energy, Inc.
Erosion and sedimentation control permits issued by DEP were required for these activities because more than five acres of ground would be disturbed during the construction of natural gas drilling pads, natural gas pipelines, and associated facilities. DEP originally issued these three general permits under its expedited permit review process, by which DEP staff only perform a cursory review of the permit application, and rely on a certification from a professional engineer, surveyor, geologist or landscape architect included with the permit application that the application meets all DEP permit requirements.
After the permits were appealed to the EHB, DEP performed a substantive review of the previously submitted permit applications, and discovered numerous technical deficiencies and inconsistencies with state requirements, prompting the revocation of the permits. DEP also sent letters to the three licensed professionals who certified the permit applications, warning them that additional enforcement action may be taken against them.
The permit revocations mean that the two companies must immediately halt all earth disturbance activities previously allowed by the permits, stabilize all disturbed soil, and re-apply for the permits. Neither company will be able to use the expedited permit review process when they reapply for these permits.
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