EQT Wins Court Case Against PA DEP re $4.5M Wastewater Leak Fine

In October 2014 the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) fined PA driller EQT $4.53 million for a leaky wastewater impoundment in Tioga County, PA (see PA DEP Levies Biggest Fine Ever, $4.5M Against EQT). While EQT did not say there wasn’t a problem with leaks at the site, they did say the way the DEP calculated the fine is unreasonable and arbitrary. In fact, EQT says the DEP levied the fine and took EQT to court because a few weeks prior EQT had sued the DEP over a different matter. EQT appealed the fine and the case to PA Supreme Court and a year later the high court handed EQT a “procedural victory” by saying EQT has a point about the manner in which the DEP is calculating the fine (see PA Supreme Court Gives EQT “Procedural Victory” in $4.5M Fine Case). The Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court, PA Commonwealth Court, for follow up work. The work is done and EQT has won. A three-judge panel ruled that the method the DEP currently uses to assess fines–by how many days pollution lingers, instead of by how many days the initial release of pollution lasted–is not legal nor common sense. The judges said such a method in fining, “would result in potentially limitless continuing violations.” Under the old way of calculating fines, the DEP was considering upping the fine on EQT to an insane $157 million. Calculating it under the new way will mean a fine of around $120,000. This is a major victory for EQT and a reigning in of egregiously overzealous state regulators…

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