Lieutenant Governor Tours Leroy Well Site

Scranton Times-Tribune

Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley on Thursday toured the site of the April 19 natural gas well blowback incident in LeRoy Twp. and said steps are being taken to ensure such an accident doesn’t happen again.

“We are working with not only with this company (Chesapeake) but the industry itself in order to make sure that we do take the necessary precautions to make sure incidents like this don’t happen again,” he said.

The incident began with an equipment failure at the Chesapeake drill site, causing hydraulic fracturing fluid to be released into the environment, including into Towanda Creek and an adjacent tributary. DEP spokeswoman Katherine Gresh said that in the agency’s sampling of a farm pond, an unnamed tributary and Towanda Creek, it was found that an unknown number of amphibians died in the pond.

Mr. Cawley also answered questions about criticism that Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith has brought concerning Bradford County not being represented on the Marcellus Shale Advisory Com­mission, which Mr. Cawley leads, and about a lawsuit Mary­­land said it intends to bring regard­ing the LeRoy Twp. incident.

Meanwhile, a Chesapeake Energy official stated afterward that 10,000 gallons was spilled at the site, which is a lower amount than an earlier report.

Unlike a 2010 blowout at a Marcellus Shale well in Clearfield County, the LeRoy Twp. incident has not prompted state regulators to ask an independent expert to evaluate what went wrong.

Mr. Cawley said that in the past the state has not hesitated to call for “broader investigation or stricter enforcement” if “circumstances warrant” it.
“It appears this incident hasn’t required that additional step,” he said.

Although Chesapeake officials released additional details about the blowout on Thursday, questions remain about what caused the spill. State regulators and Chesapeake have not released the company’s official response to a violation notice that asked why and how the well failed.

Asked Thursday if he would urge the agency to release the document, Mr. Cawley said he would first have to have a discussion with the head of DEP.

One detail to be included in the document is why it took Chesapeake 12 hours to bring a well-control specialist to the site from Texas when a similar firm is located in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Cawley said Chesapeake told him that when the well-control firm, Boots and Coots International Well Control, arrived at the troubled well site, “they basically said everything you have done to this point is exactly what we would have done.”

“We’re trying to get confirmation that that is the case,” Mr. Cawley said.
Maryland suit

Recently, Maryland said it intends to sue over the LeRoy incident.

A news release on Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler’s website claimed the company endangered the health of citizens and the environment.

The news release notes that Mr. Gansler has sent a letter to Chesapeake Energy Corp. and its affiliates. It informs the companies of the State of Maryland’s intent to sue for violating the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act, according to the news release.

“I respectfully disagree with the attorney general of Maryland, but beyond that, we’ll let the courts decide.”

When asked if there were any plans to have someone from the Northern Tier on the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, Mr. Cawley answered: “… the commission, the make-up, the construct of the commission, really is not as important as the information that we gather and the people we’re in contact with, and the information that comes in.”

He added that Northeast Pennsylvania resident Richard Allan, acting secretary of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, serves on the commission. He is from Nanticoke in Luzerne County.

“So we do have people there,” Mr. Cawley said.

“But we want to go the extra mile as well. That’s why I’m here today, that’s why later on today I’ll be meeting with several county commissioners from the Northern Tier. We’re listening.”

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