PA Court Upholds $1.1M Fine on EQT re Wastewater Impoundment

Yesterday Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court upheld a PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) fine levied on EQT for $1.1 million related to a leaky wastewater impoundment in 2012. 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, something that happened two years earlier (see PA DEP Levies Biggest Fine Ever, $4.5M Against EQT). EQT never said 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 April of this year, 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 that was the end of the case. But it wasn’t. 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. In May the court heard oral arguments over how to prove whether contaminants in the soil have moved into groundwater (see EQT Continues to Fight PA DEP Fine re Wastewater Impoundment). What lawyers argued 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 claimed to have a formula and calculated a revised $1.1 million fine based on assumptions about how many days the contaminants leaked out of the ground. Yesterday, Commonwealth Court agreed with DEP and upheld the fine…

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