WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court indicated Monday that it could throw out an $18 million penalty against a natural gas company convicted of an environmental violation in Rhode Island.
In arguments at the high court, several justices sounded skeptical of the government's case for upholding the penalty against Texas-based Southern Union Co. over its improper storage of mercury in a building in Pawtucket.
A gas company spokesman says it took immediate action when it discovered what it called "integrity issues" with some gas wells near a Pennsylvania community that's complained of drinking water pollution.
Rex Energy spokesman Derek Smith said the company experienced two "well integrity issues" and took immediate corrective action. Smith said the steel casing that protects groundwater was never jeopardized.
He said Rex Energy is confident that its operations did not affect the ground water chemistry in the region
At least two gas wells near a community that's complained of sudden drinking water pollution had casing failures during the drilling process. A well casing is meant to prevent gas or other fluids from leaking into nearby aquifers.
Last week Rex Energy of State College and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection suggested there was no evidence that recent gas drilling contaminated water wells in the Woodlands community, 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. People in at least 10 households have complained of suddenly discolored and smelly water and unexplained illnesses.
But The Associated Press has learned that Rex acknowledged the well problems in a 2010 financial report.
A western Pennsylvania woman says state environmental officials refused to do follow-up tests after their lab reported her drinking water contained chemicals that could be from nearby gas drilling.
At least 10 households in the rural Woodlands community, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, have complained that recent drilling impacted their water in different ways.
The Department of Environmental Protection first suggested that Janet McIntyre's well water contained low levels of only one chemical, toluene. But a review of the DEP tests by The Associated Press found four other volatile organic compounds in her water that can be associated with gas drilling.
Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale gas drilling companies are recycling more and more of their briny, chemical-laden wastewater, in most cases complying with a request from state officials to keep the pollutants from being discharged into rivers that supply drinking water.
But experts are wondering if a loophole in disposal regulations is still allowing significant quantities of one of the worrisome compounds— salty bromides— into rivers and streams, or if shale gas drillers were only part of the problem.
The new mystery is this: why hasn't the dramatic progress on the wastewater recycling led to equally clear declines in river bromide levels?
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has fined a gas driller more than $500,000 for three separate violations.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. agreed to pay $565,000 after state regulators found the Oklahoma City-based driller in violation of rules protecting streams and wetlands.
In one high-profile case, Chesapeake lost control of a gas well in Leroy Township, Bradford County, in April, allowing fluids from the well to enter Towanda Creek. Regulators found contaminants in the water but no lasting damage.
Swarms of dead fish are surfacing and people with skin irritations and gastrointestinal illness are showing up at the local clinic as a fire on Chevron Corp.'s natural gas rig continues to blaze off the coast of Nigeria, The Associated Press reports.
Reports of lightning-related fires and gas leaks in at least a dozen states have raised concerns about the use of flexible gas lines made of corrugated stainless steel tubing and have led to lawsuits, studies and efforts to better track the incidents.
Manufacturers have defended the plastic-coated metal tubing, known as CSST, which has become increasingly common in new homes since it was introduced domestically more than two decades ago. Fire officials and researchers are trying to determine whether to blame a faulty product, unsafe installation or something else for the blazes.
Four homes caught on fire in central Ohio over a stormy 12-hour period this summer. Genoa Township Fire Chief Gary Honeycutt said he believes lightning struck at or near the homes, and the electrical charge traveled along the CSST before jumping to a less resistant pathway nearby such as a metal ventilation duct. It then punctured a hole the size of a pencil tip in the tubing and created a gas leak that could ignite, he said.
Attorneys general in four Northeastern states announced they would petition the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a new review of regulations governing nuclear waste storage, The Associated Press reports.
A panel of infrastructure experts in New Jersey criticized Gov. Chris Christie for remarks that suggested there was no evidence of a link between climate change and Hurricane Sandy, E&E Publishing reports.