CNX Pleads Criminal Charges for Misrepresenting Washington County Air Pollution

Attorney General’s Office investigation turned into neighbor complaint

  • Reid frazier

CNX Resources Corporation has argued arguably this week to criminal charges for violating state air pollution control law when it misreported air emissions from a pipeline maintenance station in the Township of South Franklin, Washington County.

The case was investigated by Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office. He was aided by the observations of a neighbor who complained about the company’s “Oak Springs” site, where it performs “pigging,” a process in which oil and gas companies clean up underground pipelines by sending equipment called “pig”. ”.

According to a affidavit filed by an investigator from the attorney general’s office, the company misreported the number of pigging operations that took place at the site four years in a row, starting in 2016, the first year it was required to submit data on air pollution from pigging and other operations at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Since it uses this number to calculate its emissions, the affidavit indicates that the company underestimated its emissions in 2016 and 2017, and overestimated them in 2018 and 2019.

The affidavit states that when the new regulations came into effect in 2016, the company did not have any type of data communication system in place to record pigging events..

As a result, “(the) number of pigging events were recorded in the form of emails and text messages sent by a third-party contractor,” the affidavit states.

The affidavit states that a neighbor, Jodi Borello, complained about the company’s pigging activities and the site’s emissions to DEP, from 2012.

“The Oak Springs resort was being beaten up several times a day, which seriously disrupted the quality of life for Jodi Borello and her family,” the affidavit states.

Although the agency found no emissions violations during the investigation, Borello’s record keeping of activities at the site alerted the agency to “the possibility that CNX Resources is not accurately reporting the number. of times his station in Oak Springs has been beaten up ”.

The affidavit states that a subsequent investigation found that the company made “numerous errors in the number of recorded pigging events”, resulting in undercoverage of emissions in 2016 and 2017, and overcoverage in 2018 and 2019, and that “CNX’s mistakes resources weren’t limited to the Oak Springs facility.

Veronica Coptis, executive director of the Center for Coalfield Justice, which helped bring the case to the attention of the DEP, said Borello’s record keeping helped investigators compile their case.

“It was the records of this community member that enabled the state to launch an investigation and notice that there were discrepancies between what CNX was reporting to the Department of Environmental Protection and what this community member witnessed, “Coptis said.

“This is a shining example that we are seeing, that those people who live next to these operations care about their health and are going to be diligent and not give up.”

Borello did not return phone calls for comment.

In September 2019, the company implemented software to record scraping events in the field, with the goal of eliminating tabulation errors, the affidavit states.

As part of the advocacy, the company agrees to donate $ 30,000 to the Township of South Franklin to fund the restoration of an 1,800 foot tributary of Chartiers Creek and to help improve the park. He will also donate 184 acres to Allegheny County in Elizabeth Township.

Shapiro’s office said in a statement, “Pennsylvanians have a constitutional right to clean air and clean water. With this call, CNX admitted to reporting fraudulent information about the shows. CNX will provide those reports from now on and help with restoration work in Allegheny and Washington County that is exceeding penalties for committing these environmental crimes in Pennsylvania.

CNX spokesman Brian Aiello said in a statement the company was “satisfied to have fully and amicably resolved this matter” and that the reporting errors were “unintentional.”

“We take full responsibility for these inadvertent reporting errors, which resulted from the processing of extremely large data sets as a result of new regulatory requirements and guidelines that industry and others are still interpreting,” said Aiello. .

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