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B&R Resources, LLC v. Department of Environmental Protection

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20041
Nos. 1234 C.D. 2017, (Pa. Commw. Ct., 03/15/2018)

A Pennsylvania appellate court reversed and remanded a lower court's decision that the owner of an oil and gas company should be liable for failing to plug 47 abandoned oil and gas wells located in Erie and Crawford Counties. The state environmental agency issued an administrative order requiring the company to seal off the wells. The owner appealed, but the environmental hearing board dismissed the appeal and held the owner was liable for failing to comply. The board's ruling was based on its determination that the owner knowingly decided not to plug any of the wells. But liability cannot be imposed on the owner for wells that the company lacked the financial resources to plug. The board held only that the company had “some financial resources" that the owner decided to spend for other purposes. On remand, the board must determine how many wells could have been plugged had the owner directed the company to make reasonable efforts to plug the wells and then assess liability in accordance with those findings.