Albany Regulator: Driller in PA Muddied NY Waters

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Regulators are seeking to fine a gas driller in Pennsylvania for water quality violations in New York.

In a complaint letter, New York's Department of Environmental Conservation said the driller, U.S. Energy Development Corporation, allowed sediment from drill pads and access roads in Pennsylvania to accumulate in Yeager Brook, causing the water to turn grey and cloudy.

Yeager Brook flows from Pennsylvania into Western New York, passing through Allegany State Park.

It's the third such violation by the same company on the same site. The DEC is seeking nearly $187,500, which would include the maximum fine allowable plus additional penalties for failure to comply with earlier cleanup orders.

New York has much stricter rules on gas drilling than Pennsylvania.

The wells in question were the site of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial drilling technique. However, the volume of water used in fracking at the location was low enough to be permissible under New York laws.

The DEC is now completing a review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which requires water volumes about 300,000 gallons per well.

The U.S. Energy Development Corporation said in a statement that it received the letter from the DEC a few days ago and replied Tuesday morning, and "was informed by DEC that it had already issued a press release giving the company no chance to respond."

The company said, "The wells are in Pennsylvania and the company’s operations are regulated there by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  U.S. Energy is not aware of any issues at the wells in question.  We were told that DEC alerted Pennsylvania’s DEP of its concerns.  DEP asked DEC for a meeting to discuss DEC’s concerns for validation, but DEC never responded back to DEP.  U.S. Energy intends to vigorously defend itself."