PHILADELPHIA (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that Atlas Resources LLC will pay an $84,506 penalty to settle alleged air and hazardous chemical violations at its natural gas production facility in Avella, Washington County, Pa.
EPA cited the company for violating the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, a federal law designed to inform the public and emergency responders about hazardous and toxic chemicals in their communities. EPCRA requires facilities to submit annual reports on regulated chemicals, and routine and accidental chemical releases.
The law also requires facilities to report on their hazardous chemicals to state and local emergency response agencies. This information helps communities and first responders to prepare for chemical emergencies. Atlas was also cited for violating Clean Air Act provisions that require regulated facilities to take steps to reduce the risk of accidental releases of hazardous substances, and minimize the consequences of any accidental releases that do occur.
EPA alleged that Atlas failed to provide state and local emergency responders required information on hazardous chemicals stored at the company's Avella production facility during 2008 and 2009. The agency also alleged that Atlas did not comply with proper storage and handling of natural gas condensate at the site. EPA's investigation at various Atlas production wells in Washington County also indicated the presence of vapor releases from condensate tanks. As a part of the settlement, Atlas did not admit or deny EPA's allegations.
Currently, Atlas has discontinued operation of its natural gas extraction wells in Washington County until the company completes audits at eight of their production facilities located there. These audits are being done to ensure compliance with safeguards preventing accidental air releases and confirming that operations are environmentally sound.
The Atlas facilities in Washington County to be audited are located in Hopewell Township and Cross Creek Township. The company will conduct the audits based on EPA's recently adopted New Source Performance Standards and National Emission Standards for hazardous air pollutants in the oil and gas sector. Compliance with these industry and federal standards will help improve local air quality and protect public health.