U.S. EPA Fines ExxonMobil Affiliate on Fracking Water Discharge
XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, has been fined $100,000 for violating the U.S Clean Water Act in connection with its discharge of wastewater from a facility in Pennsylvania's Lycoming County used to store wastewater generated through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
The settlement with the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Justice also calls for the company to invest a government- estimated $20 million in a "comprehensive plan" to improve wastewater management. This is to include recycling, proper disposal and prevention o spills in gas exploration and production activities in the states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Among other things, XTO will be required to install a continuous remote monitoring system for all of its permanent production in the two states with alarms designed to immediately alert operators when spills occur as well as implementing a program to actively monitor innterconnected wastewater storage tanks.
In the event leading up to the fine, a discharge from the XTO facility was discovered by the Pennsylania Department of Environmental Protection during a routine inspection. Pollutants from the discharge were found in a tributary of the Susquehanna River basin. Authorities said the release contained a variety of pollutants, including chlorides, barium, strontium and totally dissolved solids.
After the company completes the improvements, the U.S. government estimates that the discharge of total dissolved solids will be reduced by 264 million pounds (120 million t) over the next three years. This will occur in part, the EPA said, because XTO will increase wastewater recycling. Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said the EPA "continues to push for responsible development of domestic sources of energy and to insist that companies play by the rules that protect public health."