EPA Investigation Launched in Washington County, PA

Washington County is the most active county in southwestern Pennsylvania for Marcellus drilling, including most numbers of wells drilled, pipelines to transport the gas and compressor stations to power the pipelines. Word has just leaked that last September the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began a “multi-media” probe into drilling in Washington County. A multi-media probe means they analyze air, water and land impacts of drilling. Apparently the EPA doesn’t believe the PA Department of Environmental Protection can do its own job and needs an assist.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating whether specific Marcellus Shale drilling and compressor station operations in Washington County have caused environmental damage that violates federal regulations.

The federal "multi-media" investigation of air, water and hazardous materials impacts, which the EPA has not previously acknowledged, began in late September when on-site testing was done and is the initial stage of a possible enforcement action or actions.

"In Washington County, EPA has conducted inspections at active industrial operations including well pads and compressor stations," Terri White, an EPA spokeswoman at the agency’s Philadelphia regional office, said in an email response to questions last week.

"The EPA is assessing the findings of our air, water and hazardous waste investigations in Washington County," said Bonnie Smith, another EPA spokeswoman in Philadelphia, who noted that the agency will not disclose the names of the facility or facilities where testing has been done until the investigation is complete, and that’s expected to take "several more months."

"Washington County was chosen for multi-media inspections because there is a significant amount of oil and natural gas development occurring there," said Ms. Smith. "While natural gas operators employ various safeguards to minimize the risks inherent to the industry, legitimate concerns have emerged regarding potential environmental impacts."*

*Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Feb 13, 2012) – EPA probing Washington County shale operations