Oil company fined $223K for Monroe County fracking-well fire

The Associated Press

A fire at a natural gas fracking well that forced evacuations and killed thousands of fish in eastern Ohio last summer will result in fines of about $223,000 against an international oil and gas company.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A fire at a natural gas fracking well that forced evacuations and killed thousands of fish in eastern Ohio last summer will result in fines of about $223,000 against an international oil and gas company.

Environmental regulators announced the fines against Norway-based Statoil on Tuesday. The fines are being assessed for the loss of aquatic species, spill cleanup and water quality violations from the well-pad fire in June 2014, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Natural Resources said. They say the company operated the well in Monroe County and can resume fracking there after it pays the fines.

A message left Wednesday at the company's North America office in Houston wasn't immediately returned.

The Department of Natural Resources found that fluids left the well pad in violation of state law and the company failed to maintain operational control on it. The agency also said the company disposed of brine fluid used in fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, in an unapproved method.

Investigators confirmed that the fluids from the well pad depleted oxygen levels in a nearby creek, where about 70,000 fish died, according to the statement.

Teresa Mills, an Ohio organizer with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, told The Columbus Dispatch that the fines were "a slap on the wrist."

Authorities have said that a tubing malfunction led to the fire that spread to about 20 trucks on the pad. No injuries were reported.

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