Driller and federal prosecutors reach agreement over allegations of environmental violations

WHEELING, W.Va. — A well-known oil and gas drilling company in West Virginia has reached an agreement with the U.S. EPA, state regulators, and the U.S. Department of Justice over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia announced a proposed consent degree this week with Waco Oil and Gas company. The decree would resolve the allegations over unauthorized discharges of dredged or fill material into a pair of central West Virginia streams.

The terms of the proposed decree call for Waco to pay $825,000 in penalties, restore the large majority of the impacted water, and provide compensatory mitigation for waters which cannot be restored. The company will also place a deed restriction on its property to preserve the restored waters in perpetuity.

The allegations stem from a complaint filed in 2017 against the company. The complaint states the material was discharged into tributaries of Bear Run and adjacent wetlands and tributaries of Cunningham Fork in Braxton County without state and federal environmental permits.

“Clean water is vital for our communities and the environment,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in a press release announcing the decree. “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.” said Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “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.”

The United States will publish a notice of the consent decree’s lodging with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in the Federal Register and will accept public comment for 30 days after the notice is published. The Federal Register notice will also include instructions for submitting public comment.

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