An Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary today agreed to settle charges it violated the Clean Water Act, pledging to spend about $20 million to better manage wastewater pollution from its fracking operations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice alleged that XTO Energy Inc. in November 2010 discharged wastewater contaminated with pollutants including chlorides, barium, strontium, and total dissolved solids from an open valve from inter-connected tanks at a facility in Penn Township, Pa. Pollutants from the release were found in a tributary of the Susquehanna River basin.
Under the settlement, the company will pay a $100,000 fine and spend an estimated $20 million to better recycle and properly dispose of its wastewater, as well as taking steps to prevent future spills. This includes installing a continuous remote monitoring system, complete with alarms if something goes wrong.
EPA estimates that the settlement will prevent approximately 264 million pounds of total dissolved solids from entering surface waters in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
“The operational improvements required by today’s settlement will help to protect precious surface and drinking water resources,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, in a news release. “EPA continues to push for responsible development of domestic sources of energy and to insist that companies play by the rules that protect public health.”
XTO merged with Exxon Mobil Corporation in 2010. According to its website, XTO is the nation’s largest holder of natural gas reserves, with interests in approximately 40,000 producing oil and natural gas wells across the country. James Becker, a Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney litigation partner, represented XTO.
The settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.