WHAT A MESS at Antero Brine Processing Facility on US Route 50 East @ West Union in Doddridge County

by admin on September 22, 2023

Ariel View of Antero Clearwater Facility Near West Union on US Route 50 East

In West Virginia, Plan to Clean up Radioactive Fracking Waste Ends in Monster Lawsuit

From an Article by Justin Nobel, DeSmog News, September 19, 2023, Updated September 22, 2023

In rural West Virginia, largely hidden among steep hills, stands a $255 million facility designed to transform fracking waste into freshwater and food grade quality salts. Proponents hailed it as one of the most important environmental projects undertaken by the oil and gas industry in recent U.S. history. But local conservation groups and residents remained skeptical from the start, warning that the plant could leak toxic waste into water and air, harming human health and ecosystems in a largely forested region where tight-knit communities live close to the land.

The facility, called Clearwater, was built by the Denver, Colorado-based oil and gas extraction company, Antero Resources, and an affiliate of Veolia, the multinational French waste, water and energy management company. It lies in the heart of north central Appalachia’s booming Marcellus and Utica gas fields — America’s top natural gas-producing region — and was built to process 600 truckloads per day of fracking wastewater. Laden with heavy metals, chemicals and other contaminants, this waste frequently exhibits levels of radioactivity hundreds of times the safe limits set by regulators.

The developers’ hopes were initially high. At a meeting in September 2015 at the courthouse in Doddridge County, West Virginia, Conrad Baston, the general manager of civil engineering with Antero, suggested salt produced during the waste treatment process could be called, “Taste of the Marcellus,” after the gas-rich geologic formation from which it came. “It’s the best project like this in the world,” Kevin Ellis, Antero’s vice president of government relations, told a West Virginia newspaper in 2019. “Bar none. Period.” Ellis is currently Antero’s regional vice president in Appalachia, and Baston is still stationed with Antero in West Virginia.

Antero was to own the treatment plant and supply it with fracking waste from its nearby oil and gas extraction operations. Veolia would design, build, operate and maintain the facility under a 10-year agreement in return for more than $255 million, Antero said in 2015.

Clearwater began operating in November 2017, according to one drilling industry news site. But a mere 22 months later, the facility was idled, and Antero and Veolia are now locked in a half billion-dollar legal battle over the plant.

On March 13, 2020, Antero filed a lawsuit against Veolia in the District Court of Denver County, Colorado. The complaint, obtained by DeSmog via a public records request, accused the company of fraud, breach of contract, gross negligence, and willful misconduct, and demanded at least $457 million in damages.

“Clearwater was a failure,” reads the complaint. “Veolia promised[] a ‘turnkey’ facility” where Antero would “simply ‘turn the key’ and have everything function as intended” but “Veolia failed at every turn,” the complaint alleges. The filing further alleges that Veolia “started cutting corners even before the project started,” “hid” vital design flaws, and made modifications that were “ill-conceived, untested, and poorly implemented” and ultimately “doomed the commercial viability of the facility.” According to the complaint, the idling of the plant in September 2019 had nothing to do with a drop in natural gas prices, the reason Antero officials stated to a Pittsburgh newspaper at the time. The real explanation, the complaint alleges: “The facility simply did not work.”

Meanwhile, in extensive comments to DeSmog, Veolia has defended Clearwater. “Veolia has and continues to strongly disagree with Antero’s allegations,” said Carrie Griffiths, executive vice president and chief communications officer for Veolia North America. “In particular, Veolia emphatically denies that it committed fraud.”

On the same day that Antero filed its lawsuit, Veolia filed counterclaims for more than $118 million. On January 3, 2023, the Denver County district court found that Antero had prevailed on its claims for breach of contract and fraud, awarding the Colorado energy company approximately $242 million in damages, plus interest, and reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees. “We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and will file an appeal against it,” Griffiths told DeSmog in late March. In April, the District Court reduced the amount of damages. As of late August, Veolia’s appeal in the Colorado Court of Appeals was still pending.

The oil and gas industry has long faced criticism for the role the carbon emissions from burning its products play in causing climate change. But the legal battle over Clearwater opens a window into a problem that has received far less scrutiny: A regulatory vacuum governing the industry’s radioactive waste. Multinational companies have seized lucrative opportunities to clean up this mess. But a lack of transparency has made it almost impossible for communities to hold such companies to account when projects fail, or understand the kinds of health or environmental risks they may pose.

“If they were coming from Europe and had a superior system that would actually free us from the pollution and the toxicity that would be welcome,” said Jill Hunkler, executive director of Ohio Valley Allies, a grassroots advocacy group fighting for environmental justice in northern Appalachia.

“But it doesn’t seem like that is what happened,” Hunkler said. “And because they are from another country, it is going to be much harder to hold them accountable.”

NOTE: This Article continues on the DeSmog News Service, see below. DGN


Facility was planned to process up to 500 tank trucks of residual brine waste water per day!

SOURCE: In West Virginia, Plan to Clean up Radioactive Fracking Waste Ends in Monster Lawsuit – Justin Nobel, DeSmog, September 22, 2023

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