Fines for Utah Energy Firm

Thursday, February 13, 2014 @ 09:02 AM gHale


Gasco Energy will permanently shut down a natural gas well that contaminated wetlands near the Green River in the community of Ouray, Uintah County.

Damages to more than two acres of wetlands mean the company faces remediation measures as well as a civil penalty payment of $110,000 to address its violations of the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the wetlands area as critical habitat for several endangered fish species biologists are working to restore. The steep fines speak to the potential for serious environmental and public health consequences from illegally filling wetlands, said EPA Region 8 Administrator Shaun McGrath. The settlement underscores EPA’s administrative order and goal to correct Clean Water Act violations. Court records indicate Gasco drilled a natural gas well in a Green River floodplain in 2007 near Ouray, Uintah County, and contaminated more than two acres of wetlands with dredged or fill material.

The Denver-based company could have resolved the issue in 2011, when an administrative enforcement order from Federal regulators required them to submit a plan to restore the wetlands. But they challenged the order, so the EPS filed counterclaims seeking a civil penalty and full wetlands restoration.

Under the proposed consent decree announced last week, Gasco agreed to plug and permanently close the problem well. The company will also remove the well pad and access roads, replant vegetation, and take other measures to restore the damaged areas.

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