PA Man Guilty of not Plugging Wells

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 @ 06:09 PM gHale

A Pleasantville, PA, man pleaded guilty last Monday in U.S. District Court in Erie to charges he lied to the government, claiming he had plugged abandoned Elk County oil wells in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act when he had not.

Ronald A. Wright, 45, pleaded guilty to one count of “false writing or document to the government.”

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Sentencing will be Dec. 22. The charge carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Piccinini said the violations occurred as a company named ARG Resources Inc. sought to use a combination of injection and production wells designed to increase the amount of oil from wells in the Allegheny National Forest (ANF).

The permit for the injection wells, known as Class II injection wells, required all abandoned wells within a quarter-mile of the new injection wells be plugged.

ARG contracted with Pleasantville-based S&T Services and Supply Inc. to plug abandoned oil wells so ARG would be in compliance with the permitting process under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Between September 2009 and April 2011, Wright, an employee of S&T, plugged wells, but not to the depth he claimed in the reports filed with the government.

Piccinini said the problem ended up discovered when fluids unexpectedly came to the surface amid a test of one of the new injection wells, signaling a problem with the plugging procedures of surrounding abandoned wells.

Piccinini said the number of affected wells was more than the number charged in the indictment. Wright had plugged 95 wells in a seven-year period and a sample testing of nine wells showed all had “irregularities,” he said. All 95 will likely have to end up replugged, Piccinini said.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Section, and the U.S. Forest Service’s Law Enforcement and Investigations investigated the case.

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