(Reuters) - Oil and gas producer Range Resources has been fined more than $4 million for environmental violations in Pennsylvania, state environmental authorities said on Thursday, the largest fine leveled against a shale gas operator in the state.
Range Resources must pay $4.15 million to settle violations at six impoundments, or holding ponds, in Pennsylvania's Washington County, the local Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said in a statement. The company must shut down some sites and do repair and upgrade work at others.
The charges against Range Resources included improper monitoring of leaks from a wastewater containment pond as well as releases of contaminants, such as leaking flowback, that has affected soil and groundwater.
There had been no impact as yet on drinking water from any of the affected impoundments, the DEP said.
The biggest U.S. shale gas field, Marcellus, runs through Pennsylvania. Marcellus, which produces a fifth of the country's natural gas, is at the heart of the shale gas revolution, where a combination of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling technologies have brought massive volumes of gas inexpensively out of once-ignored fields.
Pennsylvania has also been pursuing a criminal case against Exxon Mobil's XTL subsidiary on charges of illegally releasing fracking water into the environment.
State DEP Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo described the fine against Range Resources as "the largest against an oil and gas operator in the state's shale drilling era".
"This action reaffirms the administration's unwavering commitment to protecting Pennsylvania’s soil and water resources," Abruzzo said.
He said Range Resources had signed a consent order and agreement on the fine and remedial work with the DEP that "establishes a new, higher benchmark for companies to meet when designing future impoundments" in Pennsylvania.
The consent order stipulates among other things that Range Resources start immediate soil and groundwater investigations at each of the closed impoundments to determine what, if any, impact they have had.
If contamination is found, the company must do remedial work.
Reporting By Barani Krishnan; Editing by Peter Galloway