Wednesday, January 26, 2011

PA fracking blowout spews fluid onto state forest lands

The following article appeared in the Star Gazette on 1.25.2011.
Talisman Energy may face heavy penalties  
By G. Jeffrey Aaron

Talisman Energy has resumed its Marcellus drilling operations in Pennsylvania, a week after one of the company's gas wells experienced a blowout that caused an uncontrolled discharge of sand and fracking fluids onto state forest lands in Tioga County.

As a result of the incident, Talisman shut down all of its hydraulic fracturing operations in North America while it conducted an internal investigation into the cause of the Jan. 17 blowout. Those operations have since resumed, with Talisman's Pennsylvania drilling program being the last to be brought back online.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has requested Talisman provide answers to nine questions related to the blowout as part of its investigation into the incident. The investigation could result in civil penalties levied against Talisman.

The well where the blowout occurred is on Pennsylvania State Forest lands in Ward Township, about nine miles southeast of Mansfield.

"There is certainly the possibility of a civil penalty that would be determined at a later time," DEP spokesman Daniel Spadoni said. "But we need to have the investigation concluded to our satisfaction before the civil penalties would be addressed."

Talisman, based in Calgary, Alberta has five days from receipt of letter, called a notice of violation, to submit the information requested by the DEP. The letter was dated Monday.

Among other items, the DEP wants Talisman to submit a sampling plan for the site, information on any fluids released during the blowout, an analysis of the incident's cause, changes in all of the company's Marcellus operations as a result of the incident and when those changes will be implemented.

DEP is also asking why it was notified shortly after 1:30 p.m. Jan. 17 when the incident began a little after noon.

"This was a serious incident that could have caused significant environmental harm had it not been brought under control," DEP North-central Regional Director Nels Taber said in a statement. "DEP is conducting a thorough investigation to determine why this incident occurred."

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