Prove your humanity

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has shelved a natural gas pipeline project in Westmoreland County after the company behind it failed to get necessary federal wildlife approvals. 

CNX Midstream had proposed to build the “Slickville Trunkline,” a pair of pipelines along a 13.9-mile stretch of Bell, Loyalhanna, and Salem townships in Westmoreland County. Another pipeline would transport fracking wastewater between well pads in the area.

But the DEP found deficiencies in the company’s application for its erosion and sedimentation permit, including failure to get proper clearance from the federal Fish and Wildlife Service. The clearances are needed to ensure projects will have a minimal impact on sensitive wildlife. 

The company didn’t provide the clearances within the required 60-day time period, so the agency told the company on February 26 that it considered the application ‘withdrawn.’ 

Heather Hulton VanTassel, executive director of Three Rivers Waterkeeper, which opposed the permit, said the project could have affected two federally endangered bat species, the northern long-eared and the Indiana bat, and several threatened species, including the tri-colored bat, the bald eagle, and 10 migratory bird species. 

“One of the things that they have to do is get a certificate from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to explain that their work won’t impact threatened and endangered species, and they failed to do this,” she said.

The company’s pipeline application revealed it would have impacted 25 streams and 39 wetlands in the area of Beaver Run Reservoir, which provides water to 130,000 people in the suburbs to the east of Pittsburgh. 

Beaver Run Reservoir, east of Pittsburgh. Image: Google maps

“These aren’t just water sources for plants and animals, for their critical habitat. But this also serves as a drinking water source for the community members. So that’s really important that we protect that water,” VanTassel said.

The fracking wastewater pipeline CNX had proposed was particularly concerning for VanTassel. The waste, or brine, can contain chemicals and radioactive materials

“So we might see things like benzene flowing through there, heavy metals, as well as PFAS, or forever chemical contaminations” in the event of a spill, VanTassel said. 

 The company didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. 

A DEP spokeswoman said CNX can resubmit its application in the future.

DEP Fines CNX for Well Failure Near Westmoreland County Reservoir