HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection today announced that it has issued a $30.6 million civil penalty to ETC Northeast Pipeline for violations related to the 2018 Revolution Pipeline explosion and fire.
The penalty is one of the largest civil penalties collected in a single settlement, the DEP said in an announcement Friday.
“ETC’s lack of oversight during construction of the Revolution Pipeline and their failure to comply with DEP’s October 2018 compliance order demanded serious accountability,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in the announcement. “Their inaction led directly to this unprecedented civil penalty.
“DEP is committed to holding permittees accountable for permit compliance and will continue to provide active and stringent oversight over the construction of their projects. Permittees are obligated to ensure that their projects are constructed without incident and in full compliance with permits. If a permittee fails to do so, they will be held accountable.”
On September 10, 2018, a landslide occurred along the Revolution Pipeline in Center Township, Beaver County. When the landslide occurred, a section of the pipeline separated, allowing gas to escape from the pipeline. The gas ignited, causing a fire that burned several acres of forested areas, destroyed a single-family home, a barn, and numerous vehicles, resulted in the evacuation of nearby residents, and caused six high voltage electric transmission towers to collapse. No one was harmed in this incident, the DEP said.
DEP’s subsequent investigation determined that ETC, which is a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, had not stabilized a number of areas along the pipeline resulting in additional slides. ETC also failed to properly implement or maintain hundreds of best management practice controls to address stormwater runoff. The full investigation also found that during construction of the pipeline, ETC had illegally impacted numerous streams and wetlands along the length of the pipeline right of way.
In the Consent Order and Agreement (COA) between DEP and ETC, $28.6 million will go to the Oil and Gas Program Fund and Clean Water Fund. Revenue in these funds will buttress the department’s oversight of oil and gas development statewide, including pipeline projects, and will also provide financial assistance to water remediation projects across the state. An additional $2 million will go toward a DEP-approved community environmental project or projects that will benefit Pennsylvania’s environment and the waters of the commonwealth.
In 2019, ETC employed a new management team for the project and new consultants from Pennsylvania to address all of the outstanding issues with this project. After a detailed review by the department, on December 13, 2019, DEP approved, with conditions and an implementation schedule, a temporary slope stabilization plan, a landslide hazard evaluation, and an updated erosion and sedimentation control plan which are also incorporated as conditions of the COA. The COA also requires ETC to restore and mitigate stream and wetland impacts that occurred during the construction of the pipeline and to permanently stabilize all areas in and along the pipeline corridor.
As a result of the COA, ETC has demonstrated its intention to correct its unlawful conduct to DEP’s satisfaction; therefore, DEP will lift the nearly year-long permit bar currently in place. This will allow DEP to issue, over time, approvable horizontal directional drilling (HDD) re-evaluations to enable HDD or other more appropriate methods to be completed on the project. These actions will not occur all at one time but rather over a period of months. The company has agreed to inform the agency where and when it will be doing work so that DEP can ensure a field presence during this work going forward. It will also allow DEP to accept new permit applications and to act on other pending authorization requests when reviews are complete.
The Clean Streams Law permit bar, issued in February, was the broadest and longest bar to have been placed on any company in Pennsylvania.
The COA provides for reinstatement of the permit bar in the event of noncompliance by ETC. In addition, ETC’s failure to comply with any terms and timelines in the COA could result in additional and historic stipulated penalties of $20,000 per day, per violation and any other additional enforcement required and within DEP’s legal authority.
“DEP will continue to carefully monitor ETC’s activities to ensure that ETC meets the terms of this agreement and all approved permits,” McDonnell said. “The conditions imposed by this agreement seek to ensure that ETC will get this right. Anything less is unacceptable.”