After Pennsylvania AG Shapiro’s 2 year investigation, frac’er Range Resources pleads “no contest” to environmental crimes, gets tiny slap ($50,000 in fines & $100,000 donation to an NGO to make the criminal look good).

Where are criminal charges against Encana for breaking every law and rule in Alberta in place to protect our drinking water? Why is Encana/Ovintiv (and it’s sibling, the AER) above the law in Canada?

In my case, Chief Justice Neil C. Wittmann, ruled that I cannot sue the 100% industry-funded AER but ruled that I can sue the 100% public-funded Alberta Environment. Both are legally immune. Try figuring that frac’d judicial farce out.

Canada is guilty of letting polluting corporate criminals look good too by turning their fines, aka punishments, into “donations.” One example:

Synergizing Canadian Courts Enabling Polluters: BC Judge gives Painted Pony Energy PR gift (makes the company look good by “giving” to NGOs) instead of ordering real punishment for killing migratory birds in frac fluid tank

To be fair to AG Shapiro, the maximum fines allowed are stupidly tiny.

There’s much more to come from Shapiro against other criminal frac’ers, eg Cabot Oil & Gas, the company that caused widespread contamination of methane in Dimock drinking water.

How big of Range, to plead no contest.

So, if Shapiro can file criminal charges against a frac’er even if time to do so had run out, why is no one in Canada filing criminal charges against Encana/Ovintiv?


Official Range Resources Announcement | Attorney General Josh Shapiro Announcement by AG Josh Shapiro, June 12, 2020

Josh Shapiro:

“It’s my job to enforce the law.” …

“Range Resources is a powerful company that engages in frac’ing operations throughout Pennsylvania. And, they broke the law.” …

“A core responsibility of my office is to hold the powerful accountable to the rule of law in order to protect all Pennsylvanians. We’re here to put people before powerful institutions and the well connected.” …

“As the Grand Jury makes clear, laws were broken and the people of Pennsylvania paid the price.”

Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro charges fracking giant Range Resources with environmental crimes by Ryan Deto, June 13, 2020, Pittsburgh City Paper

Yesterday, the large fracking company Range Resources pled no contest to charges of environmental crimes related to leaks and contamination at natural-gas wells in Washington County. The plea was in response to charges set forth by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D-Montgomery), which stemmed from a two-year investigation.

“In Pennsylvania, clean air and pure water is a constitutional right, yet too often frackers from across the country come to our Commonwealth, walk into our communities, and ― sometimes, without care or consequence, ― strip us of those basic rights,” said Shapiro during a video released yesterday.

AG Josh Shapiro✔@PAAttorneyGen


My Office, in conjunction with the 43rd Statewide Grand Jury, criminally charged Range Resources — a fracking company — for its conduct at well sites in Washington Co.

The Texas-based Range Resources will pay $150,000 in fines for charges related to leaks and spills at a site named Brownlee and at a site named Yeager.

Both of these locations are in Washington County, just south of Pittsburgh. The investigations, conducted by Shapiro’s office and the 43rd Statewide Grand Jury, found that a storage tank at the Brownlee site leaked 2,000 gallons of fracking waste into a nearby creek and field in 2018. The leak contamination at Brownlee covered nearly one-third acres of a nearby farm and required the removal of approximately 100 trees and 12,000 square feet of soil.

The investigation also found that Range Resources knowingly covered up severe contamination problems at a storage pond near the Yeager site. The investigation found an internal Range Resource email that states “[w]e have flushed the reserve pit with approximately 30,000 gallons of water, but I fear this is nowhere near enough, based on the amount of time that the reserve pit may have been leaking.”

Range Resources sent a statement to Pittsburgh City Paper regarding the “misdemeanor charges regarding past operations” at Brownlee and Yeager sites.

“Importantly, Range has already undertaken full remediation, approved by regulators, at both sites referenced in the presentments,” reads the statement. “We stand behind our track record as a company that operates in a safe and sustainable manner, focusing on protecting our environment, our people and the communities where we work.”

Range Resources was one of the first energy companies to begin fracking in Southwestern Pennsylvania. In addition to environmental and health consequences like water contamination, increased risks for asthma patients, and links to a rare string of cancer, wells also leak copious amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

Pennsylvania started peak drilling sometime early in the 2010s. In 2012, the company claimed in commercials that natural-gas drilling was “just the beginning” and that Pittsburgh would become a new manufacturing hub “where manufacturing will become American again.”

Those claims never materialized. Since 2012, the Pittsburgh region has lost about 7,000 manufacturing jobs, and is now at the lowest level of manufacturing employment in modern history.

Many fracking companies in the Pittsburgh region have been shrinking their presences in Appalachia, including laying off hundreds of positions. Range has not committed to pulling out of Appalachia, like other oil giant Chevron, but did cut dozens of Pittsburgh-area jobs last year.

Penn Future is an environmental advocacy group that has been critical of fracking in the state since the natural-gas companies moved to Pennsylvania. Penn Future CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo says the Attorney General’s charges confirms their criticism of the fracking industry, in that it chooses profits over Pennsylvanians’ health, and the state’s environment.

“This careless industry’s agenda is finally being pulled back and exposed,” said Bonomo in a statement.

“It’s an agenda that reveals a company that does not have the public’s best interest in mind, that runs roughshod over our precious land and water resources, and one that has been protected by its boosters in the state legislature for far too long.”

Range Resources pleads no contest to criminal charges after investigation of Washington County wells by Don Hopey, June 12, 2020, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Range Resources, one of the largest shale gas drillers in the state, has pleaded no contest to criminal charges of negligent oversight of two well sites in Washington County.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the pleading Friday, which resulted from a two-year state criminal grand jury investigation into environmental crimes committed by shale gas drilling companies across the state.

The grand jury’s investigation found Range “knowingly covered up” leaking problems at a drilling waste pit and a 3 million-gallon hydraulic fracturing fluid flowback impoundment at its Yeager well pad in Amwell Township, Washington County.

And at the Brownlee drilling site in Buffalo Township, Washington County, a wastewater storage tank leak breached a “poorly secured” containment liner and flowed onto neighboring property and into Buffalo Creek. The leak contaminated a small farm field and its cleanup required the removal of approximately 100 trees and 12,000 square feet of soil.

“In Pennsylvania, clean air and pure water is a constitutional right, yet too often frackers from across the country come to our Commonwealth, walk into our communities, and ― sometimes without care or consequence ― strip us of those basic rights,” said Mr. Shapiro in a video announcement of the charges and pleading.

“Backed by big investors and big influence, too many fracking companies act like they’re above the law and put themselves ahead of the people who work on the job site, as well as the farmer, neighbor and children impacted by their operations. We’re here to remind these fracking companies that the people of Pennsylvania come first.”

Range pleaded no contest in Washington County Court of Common Pleas for the Brownlee drilling site to one count of disposal, processing and storage of residual waste, one count of unlawful conduct under the Solid Waste Management Act, and one count of prohibition against discharge of industrial wastes.

At the Yeager Pad, the no contest pleas were on two counts of disposal, processing and storage of residual waste and two counts of unlawful conduct under the Solid Waste Management Act.

As part of the Brownlee site plea, Range will pay a $6,000 fine to the Solid Waste Abatement Fund, $3,000 to the Clean Water Fund, and a $16,000 charitable contribution to the Washington County Watershed Alliance.

For the Yeager plea, Range will pay a fine in the amount of $41,000 to the Solid Waste Abatement Fund, and an $84,000 charitable contribution to the Washington County Watershed Alliance.

Range Resources issued a statement saying it has resolved the “misdemeanor charges,” and “has already undertaken full remediation, approved by regulators, at both sites referenced in the presentments.”

The email also stated that the company has been a leader in innovations that have “enhanced the safety and sustainability of our industry.”

“We stand behind our track record as a company that operates in a safe and sustainable manner,” the company stated, “focusing on protecting our environment, our people and the communities where we work.”

The Yeager well site, has a long and checkered history of spills, leaks and contentious legal issues. Range drilled a well on the Yeager farm site in 2009, and also built a drill cuttings pit and wastewater impoundment next to the hilltop well pad and near the homes of Stacey Haney and several of her neighbors.

According to a 13-page grand jury document detailing its findings, the Yeager site was immediately beset with problems, including tears in liners that were supposed to prevent leaks and numerous spills. On more than one occasion the impoundment went septic — meaning it was overrun with bacteria that produced “horrible smells throughout the area” — the document states, a problem Range tried to treat by applying “highly toxic chemicals.”

Ms. Haney, her family and neighbors claimed the drilling and fracking operation fouled their air and water and caused a host of physical ailments. In August 2018, Range Resources and 10 other companies involved in developing the shale gas well site paid them $3 million to settle their claims.

The companies, in the settlement agreement, maintain that they did not pollute any water supplies or damage anyone’s health.

The Yeager well site was a centerpiece of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America” by Eliza Griswold.

“Today, Range Resources has answered for their actions, and they know what they’ve done as indicated by internal documents and their own plea,” Mr. Shapiro said. “But this is just the beginning. We are in the first stages of a long process to hold the well-connected accountable and meet the promise of our constitution to protect our environment for generations to come.”

In a March 2020 interview, Mr. Shapiro confirmed that his office had “more than a dozen” ongoing criminal investigations involving shale gas drilling, fracking and pipeline operations, and said, “You can expect some will result in criminal charges in the near future.”

The 43rd Statewide Investigative Grand Jury has ended operations, but the AG’s office indicated that other information developed by the grand jury could form the basis for additional presentments and criminal charges.

Although the grand jury’s focus was on the shale gas industry, and Washington County residents living near the gas operations were called to testify, at least 25 state Department of Environmental Protection employees also appeared before the grand jury sitting in Pittsburgh.

In November 2019 the DEP confirmed it had hired four law firms to represent it and its employees in the AG’s investigation.

Don Hopey: email hidden; JavaScript is required or 412-263-1983. Twitter: @donhopey.

First Published June 12, 2020, 10:34am

Range Resources pleads no contest to environmental crimes at southwest Pa. well sites, AG Josh Shapiro charges company for leaks, spills in Washington County by Reid Frazier, June 12, 2020, State Impact

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Friday that Range Resources has pleaded no contest to environmental crimes at two Washington County sites. 

The charges are the product of a two-year investigation from Shapiro’s office into the fracking industry. 

The company will pay a fine of $150,000 for charges stemming from leaks and spills at the sites. At one of them, the Brownlee site, a storage tank leaked 2,000 gallons of fracking waste into a field and nearby creek in 2018. A second location, known as the Yeager site, was at the center of a high-profile contamination case that ended in a legal settlement. 

In both cases, Shapiro said, the company hid its internal knowledge of contamination from nearby residents and the public, and was negligent in protecting the state’s environment. 

“Range Resources was careless — and carelessness in the fracking industry can have consequences that can last for decades,” Shapiro said, in a video statement announcing the charges.  Range Resources didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Waste water flowed freely between storage tanks, place there by Range Resources, at the Brownlee site, according to court documents.

At the Brownlee site, the company reported the leak to a nearby landowner, “but not what damage had been done to the property,” Shapiro said, in a statement.

The leak contaminated soil on a nearby farm and required the removal of about 100 trees and 12,000 square feet of soil, Shapiro said. Range removed the contaminated trees and soil, but replanted the property only after the homeowner “said he would contact the media,” according to a grand jury presentment

The case of the Yeager site was the subject of the 2019 book “Amity and Prosperity,” by journalist Eliza Griswold, which was awarded the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction. 

Range developed the site beginning in 2009 to handle the fracking wastewater and solid waste from nearby drilling sites. 

Problems with Range Resource’s impoundment at the Yeager site included tears in liners that were supposed to prevent leaking, according to court documents.

According to a grand jury presentment, there were tears in the liner of the impoundment, and numerous spills around the site. More than once, the wastewater in the impoundment became septic — meaning it had become “overrun with bacteria — causing horrible smells throughout the area, which Range then treated with highly toxic chemicals.” 

The grand jury heard testimony from two Range employees, Carla Suszkowski and Glenn Truzzi, who each found evidence that the impoundment was leaking and contaminating the surrounding groundwater. 

“This wastewater pond should have been shut down for investigation at that very moment. Instead, nothing was done until three years later,” Shapiro said.

The company closed the impoundment in 2014, after reaching a consent agreement with the DEP.

The leaks and spills formed the heart of a legal case in which three families sued the company. The families alleged the site made them sick, including nose bleeds, headaches, dizziness, extreme fatigue, and skin rashes.

The suit also alleged Range Resources and two contracted laboratories committed fraud and conspiracy by manipulating test results to obscure their findings from the plaintiffs. Sounds like how Encana/Ovintiv operates in Alberta.

Range and several other companies involved with the site denied wrongdoing and fought the lawsuit in court for six years. The two sides eventually settled in 2018 for $3 million.  

By then, Shapiro’s office had begun investigating oil and gas companies for possible environmental crimes. The office sent a letter to attorneys in the case stating it had “assumed jurisdiction over several criminal investigations involving environmental crimes in Washington County” and that “one of the potential criminal investigations involves your respective clients.”

John Smith, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, said Friday his clients were “satisfied” that the company ultimately faced charges for its actions. 

“While, as I understand it, the investigation is ongoing, our clients are thankful to Attorney General Shapiro and staff for criminal charges that were filed to date,” Smith said. 

Smith said his clients testified before the grand jury and they’d continue to cooperate as needed. 

“Our clients’ main goal in cooperation was to make sure in any small way that this doesn’t happen to other citizens in Washington County or Pennsylvania,” Smith said. “They wanted to do whatever they could to make sure that if there was misconduct found, that maybe it would stop this and other companies from doing it again.”

As part of its plea, the company will pay $50,000 in fines, and make $100,000 in charitable contributions to the Washington County Watershed Alliance. 

The announcement of the charges was lauded by Jacquelyn Bonomo, CEO of PennEnvironment, one of the state’s largest environmental groups. 

“The Attorney General’s investigation further confirms a basic truth about the fracked gas industry: time and again, it chooses profit margins over the health of Pennsylvanians, our environment, and our natural resources,” Bonomo said, in a statement. “This careless industry’s agenda is finally being pulled back and exposed.”

But John Quigley, a former DEP secretary, called the fines Range will have to pay “less than a slap on the wrist.”

“The purpose of governmental enforcement actions is to punish violations of Pennsylvania’s environmental laws and to deter future violations,” Quigley said, in an email. “This action does neither.”

Refer also to:

2010: EnCana/now Ovintiv Corporation facing criminal charges wiggles out of all charges by donating $250000 in community safety projects following Encana deadly sour gas leak

2013: Attorney general files criminal charges against Marcellus gas drilling company for apparent intentional waste dumping

2013: Talisman frackwater pit in NE BC leaked for months, kept from public; Are Talisman, the energy regulator and BC government lying when they claim groundwater never contaminated by fracking in BC?

2013: BC OGC orders closure, drainage and remediation of Talisman’s leaking toxic frac waste water pit, Talisman says tests show soil and groundwater contaminated with chemicals

2014: Pennsylvania: Cecil Township warns about 50 residents of potential water contamination near Range Resources Frac Pit after regulator refuses to

2014: Lignoier PA: WPX’s leaking frac waste water pit contaminates three family water wells; DEP orders company to permanently replace water for one of the families

2014: Pennsylvania regulator: Range Resources’ John Day impoundment leak bigger than first thought; Range contaminated groundwater like Talisman did in BC

Compare with the fines Range was ordered to pay:

2014: Chesapeake faces new charges on Michigan leasing; Encana/now Ovintive settled criminal charges by paying 5 times the maximum penality

2014: After Encana/now Ovintiv agrees to pay $5Million fine in antitrust case, Michigan’s Attorney General dismisses second criminal charge against Encana

2014: Encana/now Ovintiv and Chesapeake Criminal Anti-trust Hearing in Michigan: Encana pleads “no contest” and buys its way out on the first day with $5 Million Settlement

2014: Attorney General Bill Schuette: Encana/now Ovintive and Chesapeake Energy criminally charged with colluding to keep oil and gas lease prices artificially low in Michigan; Also face separate, federal antitrust investigation by Department of Justice

2017: Cheapskate Aquifer-Fracker Encana, sitting on $Billions, kills $50,000.00 annual “corporate partnership” funding to Rosebud Theatre, blames economy. Greed & nastiness more likely reasons.

2018: Subsidiary of Chinese state-owned CNOOC Ltd. charged for explosion that killed 2 workers in Alberta in 2016; Nexen (blamed the workers) facing 8 charges under Occupational Health & Safety Act. How many charges will the court order as “donations” to enabling NGOs, propaganda group “Insider Education,” an arena, frac research, etc? Or will all the charges be dropped to keep China happy?

2019: Ewing sarcoma families synergized? Pennsylvania to spend two years and $4M to study possible link between fracking and spike in childhood cancers and other health harms: “We came in with a united goal…and it wasn’t to ban fracking. We want an investigation….” while the frac fumes, chemical spills, waste pits, leaching of radioactive waste into waterways, and drinking water contamination cases escalate unimpeded, frac chemicals remain undisclosed, even to physicians, and children die.

2019: “Justice” rears its farcical head, yet again. Radio reporter obtains judge-ordered frac harm settlement ‘n gag, but court stifles him! $3M settlement accidentally made public for 8 plaintiffs against Range Resources & ten other codefendants. Two plaintiffs feel “angry and defeated” by their settlement.

2019: Pennsylvania’s criminal investigation of frac harm cover-upper DEP: AG Josh Shapiro seeking investigative grand jurors from seven counties. How does one get criminal investigation into Encana illegally frac’ing a community’s drinking water aquifers with AER & Alberta govt covering it up, and bullying and shaming the harmed families?

2019: Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro: Residents “have a state constitutional right to clean air and pure water.” Frac’d residents with flaming methane contaminated water too?

2020 03: PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro expending significant investigave resources in pursuit of more than 12 criminal cases involving frac’ing: “some will result in criminal charges in the near future.” Any uncorrupted Attorney Generals in Canada courageous enough to take on frac crimes by Encana (Ovintiv)?

2020 05: Criminal Synergy strikes PA: Inflection Energy enters plea for allowing 63,000 gallons frac waste to pollute (dumped into?) Loyalsock Creek tributary, pays $55,000 (peanuts) in fines and donations (to make the polluter & frac’ing look good?).

This entry was posted in Global Frac News. Bookmark the permalink.