Waco Oil and Gas Co. Inc. has reached an agreement with the Justice Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the state of West Virginia to resolve alleged pollution violations.
Waco was alleged to have violated the Clean Water Act and West Virginia state law with unauthorized discharges of dredged or fill material into waters in Braxton County, West Virginia, according to a news release Friday from the Justice Department. A filed complaint alleged that beginning in approximately 2017, Waco Oil and Gas discharged dredged or fill material into tributaries of Bear Run and adjacent wetlands as well as tributaries of Cunningham Fork without the required federal or state permits.
Under a proposed consent decree filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, Waco agreed to pay a $825,000 penalty, restore the vast majority of the impacted waters, and provide compensatory mitigation for waters that cannot be restored. Additionally, the company will place a deed restriction on its property to protect the restored waters in perpetuity, according to the release.
According to the complaint, “from at least September 2016 to the present, Waco and/or persons acting on behalf of or at the direction of Waco conducted earthmoving activities on approximately 60 acres of the site including, but not limited to, land-clearing, grubbing, grading, excavation, and soil stripping and stockpiling using earthmoving vehicles and other equipment”. The activities resulted in the unauthorized discharges of pollutants, the complaint further noted.
“Clean water is vital for our communities and the environment”, Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim said. “Today’s action demonstrates that the Justice Department, together with its state and federal partners, is fully committed to upholding the Clean Water Act and protecting this critical resource”.
“EPA remains committed to vigorous enforcement of wetlands protections”, EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Assistant Administrator David Uhlmann said. “Today’s settlement makes clear that companies will not be allowed to profit from illegally filling wetlands and imperiling the health of the Nation’s rivers and streams”.
“EPA is serious about enforcing regulations to protect the shared resources upon which we all rely”, EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz said. “Outcomes like this remind land developers across West Virginia that the health of their business and the health of the environment are totally connected”.
West Virginia-based Waco develops, manages, and operates wells for oil and gas production, as well as offers technology and mapping, accounting, drilling, production, and field services.
In August, Texas-based Mewbourne Oil Company agreed to pay a $5.5 million penalty to settle a civil complaint regarding pollution violations, according to an earlier release by the EPA. Under the settlement, Mewbourne is also required to complete projects expected to cost at least $4.6 million to ensure 422 of its oil and gas well pads in New Mexico and Texas comply with state and federal clean air regulations and offset past illegal emissions.
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