CNX Resources recently pleaded no contest to criminal charges that it violated the Air Pollution Control Act by misreporting information about emissions from a pipeline maintenance facility in Washington County.
The four charges filed by the state attorney general’s office alleged that CNX misreported the number of “pigging” operations at a site in South Franklin Township for four years, underreporting the number in 2016 and 2017 and overreporting in 2018 and 2019. The company’s air emissions are calculated using a formula that is partly based on the number of pigging operations, which led to inaccurate reporting.
A pig is a piece of equipment that is run through a gas pipeline to clear it of liquids, hydrates, or debris that has built up and to check for corrosion. Pigging stations are located above ground at intervals along a pipeline. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, along with other pollutants is released during the process, which is why operators must report them to the DEP annually.
A resident living near the pigging station complained to the state Department of Environmental Protection about the emissions coming from the site, and also kept detailed records, alerting investigators to the possibility of inaccurate recordkeeping.
The state in 2016 began requiring operators to report annual emissions data that included calculations based in part on the number of pigging operations. CNX did not introduce any new systems for tracking those operations, instead manually calculating the number, the affidavit filed in the case states. A real-time software tracking system was introduced in late 2019 that was designed to eliminate manual tabulation errors.
As part of the no-contest plea, CNX will donate $30,000 to South Franklin Township for the restoration of 1,800 feet of a Chartiers Creek tributary and donate 184 acres in Elizabeth Township to Allegheny County.
A CNX representative said in a statement to NPR StateImpact that the company has amicably resolved the matter and takes full responsibility for the inadvertent errors, which were the result of handling large amounts of data under new regulatory requirements that were still being interpreted.