Pennsylvania Attorney General Charges Shell Falcon Pipeline LP with Environmental Violations

Office of the Attorney General

HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry this week filed charges against Shell Falcon Pipeline LP for multiple violations of the state’s Clean Streams Law during the construction of a 45-mile pipeline across western Pennsylvania.

The Office of Attorney General’s investigation into Shell’s construction practices uncovered that the company allegedly neglected to inform the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about several complications encountered during horizontal directional drills (HDD), a method used in constructing portions of the pipeline. Notably, the company faced issues where drilling mud, which can contain pollutants, was lost underground. In some instances, this mud emerged at the surface in locations not intended by the construction plans.

On Friday, the Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Section filed 13 misdemeanor charges against Shell Falcon Pipeline LP at the office of Magisterial District Judge Louis McQuillan in Washington County. These charges include seven counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law, three counts of prohibition against the discharge of industrial wastes, and three counts of prohibition against other pollutions.

Attorney General Henry emphasized the importance of adherence to environmental laws, stating, “Pennsylvania’s environmental laws are in place to keep families and communities safe from harm caused by major construction projects, such as pipelines.” She criticized the company for its decision to withhold information about the drilling issues, highlighting the potential risks to Pennsylvanians’ rights to clean air and water.

The pipeline’s construction, which began in January 2019, traversed through Washington, Allegheny, and Beaver Counties. The process of horizontal directional drilling requires the use of drilling mud to lubricate the drill bit and stabilize the hole. However, this mud can sometimes escape the bore path through natural fractures or voids in the rock, surfacing in unintended areas such as wetlands or surface water, or potentially impacting groundwater. The charging documents allege that Shell contractors failed to report these occurrences to the DEP, as well as neglecting to install real-time data logging devices on drilling equipment, contrary to their permit requirements.

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This case, prosecuted by the Office of Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Section, highlights the ongoing tension between industrial development and environmental protection. As the legal proceedings unfold, they will not only determine Shell Falcon Pipeline LP’s compliance with Pennsylvania law but also serve as a critical examination of the safeguards in place to protect the state’s natural resources.

The charges against Shell Falcon Pipeline LP are accusations, and the company is considered innocent unless proven guilty.

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