AG Shapiro Charges Energy Corporation of America, Two Employees For Environmental Crimes

June 10, 2022 | Topic: Criminal

Leaks At Well Sites Impacted At Least Two Domestic Water Supplies In Clearfield and Greene County

HARRISBURG—Attorney General Josh Shapiro, in conjunction with the 46th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, today announced that the Office of Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Section has filed criminal charges against Energy Corporation of America (ECA), now Greylock Production, LLC (Greylock), for allegedly failing to address environmental hazards created by their operations from 2015 to 2020 at various well sites in Clearfield and Greene counties. John David Sollon, Jr., and Donald Supcoe, III, two employees who oversaw these projects, were also criminally charged.

“These employees oversaw the well sites in Clearfield and Greene County and blatantly ignored protocols related to storage of waste fluids associated with fracking. Over the years, ECA’s failure to adhere to regulations allowed contaminants to leak into soil and groundwater, contaminating at least two domestic water supplies,” said AG Shapiro. “By charging the defendants and the companies who employ them, we can both seek to hold them criminally accountable for these egregious acts and send a clear message to others about how seriously we take protecting the environment and public health. As Attorney General, I will do everything in my power to protect Pennsylvanians’ state constitutional right to clean air and pure water.”

The Office of Attorney General assumed jurisdiction over the case following a referral from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The investigation involved the use of unpermitted impoundments at various unconventional well pads in Clearfield and Greene counties. Some of these impoundments ultimately leaked and caused contamination of waters of the Commonwealth, including at least two domestic water supplies.

The grand jurors heard testimony from a former ECA employee who participated in the remediation of a well pad after a DEP employee received a complaint from a landowner about dead vegetation in close proximity to the pit. According to the testimony, ECA’s consultant, Moody and Associates, investigated and confirmed the pit was leaking potentially toxic fluids meant to be confined to the well pad. The pits were subsequently dismantled, and once the water was removed, numerous holes were found in the liner.

Following this incident, ECA and Greylock entered into a consent order with DEP that dictated a process to investigate and remediate pollution from any leaking pits associated with their well pads in both Greene and Clearfield counties. Through this investigation, it was determined that 13 ECA well pads had allowed fluids to escape into the soils and groundwater. Though they have all since been shut down and reclaimed, landowners living in close proximity of some of the well pads in question suffered impacts to their drinking water supplies. Investigators found that ECA’s failure to adhere to regulations allowed contaminants to leak into soil and groundwater, and Greylock’s activities once it acquired ECA’s assets perpetuated this problem.

One landowner who lives downslope from one of ECA’s well pads in Greene County testified before the Grand Jury that during the roughly five years the pits were in use, no one ever tested his drinking water until the end of the project in 2017. After ECA’s consultant took water testing samples from his property, he was informed by DEP that there was a hole in one of the liners for the pit on the well pad. The landowner asked ECA for a permanent replacement for this particular water supply. Supcoe, who oversaw this project, told him he would need to file a formal complaint with the DEP.

Following the formal complaint to DEP, Greylock (now having acquired ECA’s assets), refused to provide a permanent fix, arguing that the water supply wasn’t the family’s primary source of water. The contamination of the landowner’s water supply persists to this day.

While conducting a search warrant issued by the grand jury on a former impoundment site that had been operated by ECA, agents from the OAG Environmental Crimes Section discovered that sludge and liner were buried in place at the location instead of being appropriately cleaned up and disposed of, in accordance with DEP regulations. It was learned that this conduct was overseen by Sollon and Supcoe, who have been individually charged for their role in ordering the burial of the impoundment waste.

The investigation also revealed criminal conduct continued under Greylock at a newer unconventional well pad, known as the Beacon Pad. The pad experienced a spill in February 2020 while the wells were being drilled. The waste that spilled made its way to an unnamed tributary. Instead of cleaning up the spill appropriately, Supcoe, now a Greylock employee, ordered that a defoaming agent be sprayed onto the rocks above the mouth of the stream. The defoaming agent effectively removed the evidence of the spill but left all the chemical constituents still in the water.

The Grand Jury recommended that Energy Corporation of America and Greylock Production, LLC, be charged with multiple counts of unlawful conduct related to the projects in Clearfield and Greene County, among other charges. Supcoe and Sollen received similar individual criminal charges for multiple violations of Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law and Solid Waste Management Act.

This case is being prosecuted by Chief Deputy Attorney General Rebecca Franz. All charges are accusations and the defendant is innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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