Pennsylvania: Big legal win for Westmoreland water against CNX Midstream. Heather Hulton VanTassel: “Compliance histories like these demonstrate a lack of willingness to comply with the law.” (Same in Bad Oil & Gas Alberta)

PA DEP Withdraws Permit Application for CNXM Slickville Trunkline Project Press Release by Riverkeepers and Lisa Johnson, February 26, 2024, The Energy Age

Heather Hulton VanTassel, PhD, 3RWK Executive Director, 724-651-4367
Lisa Johnson, Esq., Lisa Johnson & Assoc., 412-913-8583

On February 26, 2024, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) withdrew a permit application for the CNX Midstream (CNXM) Slickville Trunkline Project. The proposed CNXM Slickville Trunkline Project included two natural gas lines that would transport hazardous and radioactive oil and gas waste.

Three Rivers Waterkeeper submitted comments to the PA DEP for consideration. The comments were in response to the permit application and PA DEP’s letter of deficiencies. They identified 10 major areas of concern that could lead to irreversible damage to our natural resources and cause harm to our public health. 

In its notice to CNXM, DEP identified the fact that CNXM had not received approval from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for potential impacts that the project posed. These impacts include those to endangered or threatened fish, wildlife, and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered. The law requires regulatory agencies, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to ensure that actions they authorize will not have negative impacts in a way that would jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat of such species.

Within the project’s geographic scope, Three Rivers Waterkeeper identified two endangered bat species (the Indiana Bat and the Northern Long Eared Bat) and 10 migratory birds on the threatened and endangered species list. Furthermore, the Tricolored Bat is on the Proposed Endangered List, and the Monarch Butterfly is a Candidate for the Endangered species list and would be impacted by the proposed project. Bald eagles were also identified, which are protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Protection Treaty Act.

CNXM identified in its permit that it is currently in violation and in non-compliance of regulations and statutes, with a total of 130 violations issued, and 30 inspection reports are still open for action by the DEP.

The project had the potential to impact 54 wetlands (24 wetlands were identified as Exceptional Value), 43 streams, and 2 ponds. The receiving waters for the on-site streams are Beaver Run and the Kiskiminetas River. The downstream portion of Beaver Run is a wild trout stream, and the wetlands in or along the floodplain of the reach of that section of Beaver Run are considered Exceptional Value wetlands. One of the primary purposes of this line would be to transport oil and gas waste (produced water).

Produced water contains high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds, such as benzene, sodium, chloride, and heavy metals. Furthermore, the produced water is often radioactive. The discharge and accidental spills of oil and gas waste into waterways pose risks to both human health and the environment.

“Not only did the withdrawal of this permit protect the critical habitat for threatened and endangered species, but it will prevent the likely contamination of vital drinking water sources and subsequent public health” said Hulton VanTassel.

The purpose of the waterline was to extend the existing water system in support of planned but unauthorized oil and gas well development that has not gone through the permitting process that safeguards our environment and public health. The current endpoint of the waterline ends where there is no current facility. Thus, there is no current public need for this pipeline, and need is purely private and purely for profit with the sole goal of further exploitation of our environment for oil and gas while residents of Pennsylvania would have only experienced the negative environmental and public health impacts from this project.

Lisa Johnson, the attorney representing Three Rivers Waterkeeper stated “We are pleased that the Department of Environmental Protection upheld the law and its mission to protect Pennsylvanians and the environment. The habitats of endangered and threatened species continue to shrink, and the Department’s decision to prohibit CNXM from proceeding with a project that would harm those populations is laudable.”

“Increased energy production cannot be the driving force behind permit approval when there are so many natural resources threatened.” says Hulton VanTassel “We cannot live without clean, pure water, and when industries have proven themselves to be non-compliant at the expense of environmental and public health, we must demand better. We must protect our most valuable resources, and in Pennsylvania, we have the right to clean air and pure water.”

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