On Tuesday, DEP released the results of an investigation into the June 3 Clearfield County gas well incident. The well, as you might recall, shot gas and flow-back water (the fluid previously used for hydraulic fracturing) into the air. It was estimated that 35,000 gallons of the wastewater spewed out.
According to DEP Secretary John Hanger, a nearby spring and small tributary were affected, but minimally. It’s believed these water sources will return back to pre-spill health quickly.
The investigation found EOG Resources, the company that owned the well, and C.C. Forbes LLC, the company hired to operate the site, to be at fault. EOG failed to have a backup pressure barrier, and the barrier they did have was inadequate, resulting in the accident.
At the press conference, Hanger admitted the state’s existing regulations didn’t identify the two pressure barriers requirements. Instead, it said companies must “maintain control of wells” which Hanger explained is impossible without two barriers. As a result, the language in the existing regulations is about to get more detailed. Additionally, a letter was sent out to all drilling companies in Pennsylvania detailing proper well construction.
While DEP admits this accident shouldn’t have happened, it’s taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. EOG received nine corrective actions, which the Secretary described as having real “teeth” in it. EOG and C.C. Forbes LLC are paying a total of $400,000 in fines, which more than covers the estimated $50,000 it cost for the independent investigation and DEP clean up.
There will be accidents associated with drilling, and companies should be held accountable. EOG Resouces is an example of this check and balance system, which is working. Secretary Hanger applauded EOG Resources for its full cooperation and attitude. In the future, the secretary believes the company will be the model of good drilling practices.