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Index > United States of America > Pennsylvania > $32,000 penalty for Erie County Gas Migration

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Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120


07/8/2009 MEADVILLE – The Department of Environmental Protection has assessed a $32,000 civil penalty against First Alliance Church in Millcreek Township, Erie County, for a gas migration episode in November and December 2007 that kept five families out of their homes for 39 days.

Millcreek emergency management officials instructed the families to vacate their homes on Nov. 20, 2007, after natural gas levels in and around homes on Head Drive were found to be at explosive levels.

DEP discovered during its investigation that First Alliance Church had hired a contractor to drill a number of natural gas wells on its property a short distance from Head Drive.

As the result of the investigation to identify the source of the stray gas, DEP ordered the church to plug the well that the department determined to be the source.

Plugging a gas or oil well takes it out of service permanently by filling the borehole with cement.

As a result of the plugging of the well, gas readings on Head Drive began to fall and on December 28, and the families were able to return to their homes.

“These families suffered a very real hardship and were forced to spend major holidays away from home,” said DEP Regional Director Kelly Burch.

“Despite the fact that thousands of wells are drilled successfully in Pennsylvania each year, this situation underscores the reality that, in isolated cases, gas migration can result from drilling activities.”

The Erie Chapter of the American Red Cross provided support for the displaced families, arranging hotel accommodations, food and other assistance.

The civil penalty addresses violations of the Oil and Gas Act and the Clean Streams Law, specifically failure to prevent the migration of natural gas into Walnut Creek.

DEP’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management will use the $32,000 penalty to plug abandoned wells or to carry out other public health or environmental protection activities under the Oil and Gas Act.

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