EQT Continues to Fight PA DEP Fine re Wastewater Impoundment

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court (an appeals court) heard oral arguments over how to prove whether contaminants in the soil have moved into groundwater. The case dates back to 2014 when the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) slapped EQT with a $4.53 million fine for a leaky wastewater impoundment in Tioga County (see PA DEP Levies Biggest Fine Ever, $4.5M Against EQT). EQT did not say there wasn’t a problem with leaks at the site, but they did say the way the DEP calculated the fine was unreasonable and arbitrary. EQT appealed the fine and the case all the way to the PA Supreme Court, and in early April the Supremes ruled in favor of EQT, saying that the DEP’s levied fine was excessive and that the DEP misinterpreted language in the 1937 Clean Streams Law (see PA Supreme Court Axes DEP $4.5M Fine in EQT Tioga Wastewater Leak). We thought (mistakenly) that was the end of the case. But it’s not. The Supremes ruled on “water to water” contamination in the case, but not on ground to water contamination. PA law allows for companies to be on the hook for each day a contaminant enters the water table. What lawyers argued this week was whether or not, and how, the DEP can prove contaminants in the ground, there because of EQT’s leak, can be proven to have leached into the water on any given day. DEP is calculating a revised $1.1 million fine based on assumptions about how many days the contaminants leaked out of the ground. EQT is forcing DEP to use more than just spitball estimates in calculating the fine…

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