Chesapeake Appalachia, a unit of Chesapeake Energy, pled guilty in federal court in Wheeling, West Virginia to three criminal violations of the Clean Water Act.
The company was fined $600,000 and placed on two years probation.
Chesapeake was represented by Jason Hutt of Bracewell Giuliani.
Federal officials charged Chesapeake with discharging sixty tons of crushed stone and gravel into Blake Fork in Wetzel County, West Virginia on at least three different occasions in December of 2008.
“Chesapeake illegally filled at least three sensitive wetlands,” said David McLeod, a special agent in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal enforcement program in West Virginia. “In one instance, Chesapeake obliterated a natural waterfall.”
In its plea agreement, Chesapeake admitted that after discharging the stone and gravel that it then spread the material in the stream to create a roadway for the purpose of improving access to a site associated with Marcellus Shale fracking activity.
Federal officials alleged that Chesapeake violated the Clean Water Act when, in 2008, it selected the location for an access road to a site associated with its drilling activities, hired construction contractors to discharge and spread rock and gravel in Blake Fork in order to develop access to the Hohman Pit, and supervised and directed the work of the construction contractors.
The contractors hired by Chesapeake discharged gravel from dump trucks into Blake Fork, also known as Blake Run, on at least three separate and distinct occasions.
The parties agreed that separate violations committed by Chesapeake and occurring in connection with impoundments constructed in Marshall and Wetzel Counties would be addressed by civil penalties and not via criminal charges.
Chesapeake’s contractors, under the supervision of a Chesapeake employee, subsequently used bulldozers to spread the 60 tons of gravel in Blake Fork to develop access to the Hohman Pit in order to facilitate Marcellus Shale gas drilling activities.
Chesapeake failed to obtain a Clean Water Act permit prior to this discharge.