Two plead to violating water regs
Could face fines, jail
February 17, 2010
A Sheffield man was one of two who pleaded guilty Tuesday to causing hundreds of thousands of gallons of wastewater from a drilling operation to be illegally dumped into an oil well near the Allegheny National Forest. John Morgan, 54, of 16 Dogwood St., Sheffield, and Michael Evans, 66, of La Quinta, Calif., entered guilty pleas Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin in Erie to one count each of felony violations of the Safe Water Drinking Act. Evans, a 25 percent owner in Swamp Angel Energy LLC of Kansas, and Morgan, a site supervisor for Swamp Angel’s local operation, face up to three years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines or both, according to U.S. Attorney Robert Cessar. Sentencing for both defendants is set for June 24. “As part of their plea agreements, Evans and Morgan admitted to willfully causing more than 200,000 gallons of brine to be dumped into an oil production well, located near the Allegheny National Forest, that was not permitted or authorized by rule for underground injection,” Cessar said. Those events took place between April 2007 and January 2008. Brine can be injected into non-producing wells, he said, but only if the proper permit is obtained through the Underground Injection Control program of the Safe Drinking Water Act. “Safe drinking water is an essential part of our everyday lives, and my office is committed to vigorously enforcing federal laws that seek to protect the public health and the environment,” Cessar said. “We hope this prosecution sends the message that companies that intentionally violate federal environmental laws will be investigated and prosecuted.” According to the Bradford Era, the brine from operations at an oil production well near Kennedy Springs Road was injected into an oil well near Miam Run Road, both in McKean County. The U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation, Cessar said. “Today’s action should assure people that EPA intends to enforce environmental laws to protect the public’s health,” EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin said. “Companies that knowingly put people’s health and the environment at risk also do an injustice to those companies that are abiding by the law and doing the right things.” EPA has set up phone and email tip lines “for the public to report potential violations of federal environmental laws — 877-919-4372 and email@example.com.
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