On 22nd December 2014, XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil and the U.S’s largest natural gas company, has been fined by the US EPA $2.3 million for Clean Water Act violations related to its unconventional shale gas extraction activities in West Virginia. The US EPA fined XTO a further $3 million for restoration costs, bringing the final total charged to XTO, to $5.3 million. There is a very good reason why we say XTO have been fined the $5.3 million for unconventional shale gas extraction activities, and not fracking activities.
Due to the Bush-era legislation known as the Halliburton Loophole, fracking companies are seldom held accountable by federal agencies when it comes to water pollution, as the Halliburton Loophole legally exempts the fracking process from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. As a result, the US EPA are rendered impotent when it comes to regulating the actual fracking process and the chemicals used for injection into the ground.
However, what the US EPA have done, is fined XTO for environmental violations that exist outside the fracking process and the Halliburton loophole, in particular, violations committed by XTO which included the dumping of sand, dirt, rocks and other toxic fill materials into local streams and wetlands within the state of West Virginia, without a permit. It is these charges which are in violation of the Clean Water Act.
In total, XTO committed unauthorised discharges of dredged materials at eight sites across West Virginia, within Harrisburg, Marion and Upshur counties and the discharges are associated not with the hydraulic fracturing process (aka fracking), rather to related construction processes of well pads, freshwater pits, access roads, a pipeline, a compressor station pad.
And it is these environmental violations which have polluted approximately 5,300 linear feet of water streams and 3.4 acres of wetlands in West Virginia.
To view the US EPA settlement against XTO Energy in full, click here.
Previously, XTO Energy were charged with in early January 2014 for expelling tens of thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracturing waste water at a Pennsylvania drilling site in 2010.