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EQT Production Co. v. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20012
Nos. 485 M.D. 2014, (Pa. Commw. Ct., 01/11/2017)

A Pennsylvania court held that the state Clean Stream Law does not authorize ongoing penalties for the continuing presence of industrial waste in a waterway following its initial entry. In 2012, a waste company informed the state enviromental agency that a subgrade impoundment containing impaired water from fracking was leaking into the subsurface beneath it. The waste company took remedial action within twelve days of notifying the agency but the contents of the impoundment had completely emptied into the subsurface. Two years later, the agency proposed a $1.27 million consent agreement for the leak. Because the waste seeped into the groundwater, the agency argued it was an ongoing violation. The waste company filed suit in a lower court, and the court dismissed the case. However, the state supreme court reversed the decision and remanded the case to the lower court. Upon further review, the lower court held that the agency's interpretation of the rule could lead to limitless violations and that the Clean Stream Law does not provide for violations based on movement of waste from one body of water to another. Summary judgment was granted in favor of the waste company.