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Challenging Environmental NGO/Media Optics with Facts and Data

Transparency on environmental violations invalidates attacks on natural gas industry

Facts vs ideology.png

By CNX President & CEO Nick Deiuliis

“With over 400 violations accrued by CNX since the 43rd statewide Grand Jury report, it is baffling that the partnership appears to prioritize voluntary self-reporting. This stance negates the well-documented violations and the urgency for stricter regulatory oversight. In 2021, as Attorney General, you charged CNX with environmental crimes, to which they pleaded no contest. What is the explanation for placing your trust in the same company that you rightfully sought to hold accountable for environmental crimes?” – FracTracker Alliance
“We do not trust foxes to guard henhouses. That makes sense. Foxes have a vested interest in chicken coops being as unsecured as possible… CNX has a history with penalties. In 2017, there were fines topping $400,000 for violations in 2015 and 2016. In 2020, there was a $175,000 fine for a 2019 well failure.” – TribLive
“The evidence is in. Fracking is bad for health and the environment,” said Ned Ketyer, a retired pediatrician and president of Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania. “I think it’s a terrible agreement.” – Wall Street Journal

Leaders Threaten Entrenched Interests

The media and environmental complex do not hesitate to throw fabricated shade at the domestic energy industry, including Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry. Doing so is fundamental to their business models that rely on clicks and funding.

The company I work for, CNX Resources, is no stranger to such vilification, and has become a favored target of such vitriol, as evidenced by the above quotes. Why? Because we have the audacity to do two things.

First, to lead and forge new ground on the rigor, standards, and transparency for stakeholders of the actual environmental impacts and benefits of the domestic energy industry. And second, to eagerly advocate for the awesomeness of the natural gas industry and Appalachia using data and science.

Late last year, CNX and the Pennsylvania DEP announced a first-of-its-kind and revolutionary new standard for transparent, real-time reporting to the public of emissions and air/water quality data at natural gas sites. The landmark was the culmination of Pennsylvania Governor Shapiro’s effort to set a new standard not just for Pennsylvania, but for the nation, when it came to responsible natural gas development.

Since that November 2023 announcement, we’ve launched the cnxradicaltransparency.com website, and we’re actively monitoring and displaying daily data from five well pads (located in Allegheny, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties) and our Morris Compressor Station in Greene County. Additional pads and compressor stations across our operational footprint are scheduled to come online in the coming days and weeks.

Radical Transparency caused quite a dramatic response from the radical environmental movement, and the strident comments from that complex amped up to a new, unprecedented level. Now why in the world would certain environmentalists or ‘journalists’ be so passionately opposed to the clarity of data provided by the Radical Transparency initiative? Because objective fact and knowledge have been the natural enemies of rigid ideologies throughout history.

The New Line of Slander

Before Radical Transparency, environmentalists and journalists were loudly calling out for more health-related data and more costly, time-consuming “studies” – which have to-date provided no reliable information or clarity. The call for more studies and data is a familiar stall, delay, and kill tactic across industrial development today.

However, when real-time, accurate and reliable data are transparently published for all to see, it creates an existential conundrum for those whose mission is to vilify using rank speculation and innuendo. That’s exactly what Radical Transparency is doing to the radical environmental movement. Suddenly, domestic energy critics have done an about-face. Now they tell us that the verdict is in and they don’t need any more data.

Radical Transparency is a game-changer. Now, if someone throws out, say, baseless accusations of natural gas development exacerbating asthma, they are confronted with the real-time PM2.5 emissions data on-pad, which shows no support for any such unfounded claim. The ability to point to the scoreboard of Radical Transparency has created an immediate rebuttal of those running their mouths the loudest.

So, what to do if you are looking to keep the flames of manufactured innuendo, fear mongering, and rank speculation alive? Desperate times might call for desperate measures; like resorting to a position of, 'You can’t trust anything from these people and companies, because they are liars, immoral, and bad actors.'

As silly as that seems, it’s what those ideologically opposed to the natural gas industry have resorted to. It’s the flawed thinking that leads to those quotes at the start of this commentary. When all else fails, shout ‘liar’ as loudly as you can.

Understanding Compliance Records in the Natural Gas Industry

Believe it or not, seeing such unethical behavior is a sign of massive progress, and a win for science, rational thought, the environment, the natural gas industry, the economy, and Pennsylvania. You see, it is a sign that the thin veneer of respectability that the radical environmental complex has created is starting to be scraped off by truth.

Yet rigid, anti-science ideologies like the ones we are dealing with here don’t quit easily. So, progress inevitably means one runs into the next impediment. That's why it's crucial to understand CNX’s record when it comes to environmental compliance in Pennsylvania.

Let’s assess CNX’s record over the past two years (2022 and 2023) when it comes to Pennsylvania DEP Oil and Gas Compliance. That’s become quite the hot topic of interest.

First, recognize the number of violations the public sees does not directly correlate to the number of events that actually occurred.

Second, the number of official violations does not inform on the process CNX and the DEP follow. Since both issues are highly relevant, it is important to properly interpret the seemingly exorbitant numbers of violations.

Consistent with the philosophy of Radical Transparency, a bit of straight talk using data does wonders to highlight truth.

The data presented from 2022 and 2023 relate to violations for both CNX upstream and CNX midstream; we are the only major industry player in the Commonwealth that has substantial footprints in both upstream and midstream, and thus our violation count will reflect that.

CNX received 969 inspections by the PA DEP during 2022–2023, of which 943 were clean, 24 were due to self-reported events, and 2 were events discovered by inspectors.
CNX received 969 inspections by the PA DEP during 2022–2023, of which 943 were clean, 24 were due to self-reported events, and 2 were events discovered by inspectors.

There were 969 inspections performed on CNX sites by the PA DEP Office of Oil and Gas Management and recorded in the system over 2022–2023. That’s almost 1.5 per day on average, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Twenty-six of the 969 inspections initiated a Notice of Violation (NOV), or roughly 2.7%. Out of the 26 NOVs, 24 were self-reported to the agency by CNX, which subsequently initiated the original inspection report. Of note, the 24 self-reported NOVs cover all of the spills (16 total) and slips (7 total) incidents in the 26.1

That’s right: over 90% of the 2022-2023 CNX NOVs were initially identified by CNX, where we reported the event to the regulatory agency on our own. Liars? Can’t trust us? C’mon, look at the scoreboard.

And the two NOVs that were not self-reported were discovered by a DEP inspector before CNX had discovered the issue. Incidentally, neither related to a slip or a spill.

Once a NOV is reported by CNX (24 of 26) or is a result of a DEP inspection (2 of 26), a defined process is initiated, which unfortunately results in substantial paperwork and that generates multiple individual violations for the same incident.

That inflates the violation count to multiples of the original 26 NOVs. So, when looking at these 26 NOVs through the lens of the PA DEP Oil and Gas Compliance Report, these 26 events appear as 103 individual violation line items, greatly over-exaggerating, and often misleading, the reality of the actual number of events and the status of resolution.

What we covered so far:

  • Over 2022-2023, PA DEP inspected CNX sites 969 times;
  • CNX had 26 NOVs issued by the PA DEP over those 969 inspections (~2.7% incident rate);
  • 24 of the 26 NOVs were self-reported to the PA DEP by CNX (90+%);
  • All 16 spills and all 7 slips were captured by the 24 self-reported NOVs; and
  • The 26 NOVs, once run through the defined process, resulted in 103 individual violations.

How NOVs Produce Inflated Violation Counts

What is it about the process that converts 26 NOVs into 100+ individual violations found in the PA DEP Oil and Gas Compliance Report? It comes down to how NOVs are captured and recorded in the state’s compliance database.

Each NOV outlines specific code sections of the regulation or law that MAY be in violation with a single reported event or occurrence. For example, take an accidental spill of brine from a hose onto the ground. That starts with a self-report and notification by CNX to PA DEP. The CNX self-report then triggers an inspection by the PA DEP. That inspection report records details of the events, along with the potential code section citations that MIGHT be in violation.

And it is typical to see four or more individual code sections cited for a single, accidental spill. To make matters more confusing, there might be follow-up PA DEP inspections for the single event, especially during slip remediation, where the inspector will visit a site multiple times after the original report while remediation is ongoing. Each subsequent inspection record notes the same (original four-to-five) potential code section violations, again. Meaning these subsequent inspections for the same event/occurrence will appear as additional counts or violation lines in the PA DEP Oil and Gas Compliance Report.

This dynamic occurs frequently during slip remediation/repairs while operators are waiting on permits or permit modifications for long periods to perform remediation, and inspectors are visiting the site frequently. This gives the perception that CNX or other operators are committing hundreds of violations that accumulate one after the other. But the reality is that a single event (a slip or spill) that was self-reported will generate in PA DEP records multiple violations under multiple code sections.2 It may not be logical or ideal, but it is the law. Thus, we follow it.

Dare to Know!

CNX has been around this region for 160 glorious years. Our team members were born here, live here, and desire to stay. Our kids and parents breathe the same air and drink the same water as everyone else. One simply cannot separate CNX and the community, no matter how hard they try…or how harshly they name-call.

It’s why we jumped at the chance to embrace Radical Transparency. And it’s also the foundational reason why CNX works diligently with the regulatory community to self-report any incident, to efficiently abate any violation, and to always work with the agency to correct or improve the system.

We have a duty to respond in writing to NOVs we receive from PA DEP. And while we may disagree with the number of citations cited/interpretation of the law, CNX rarely takes the step to appeal the violations we receive, preferring to work instead with our regulators to resolve outstanding issues quickly and efficiently. Because when issues can be resolved without applying undue strain on PA DEP resources and taxpayer dollars that a costly appeal process entails, the outcome is better for all Pennsylvanians. ​

CNX will continue to disclose the data for NOVs across federal, state, and local regulatory agencies in our Corporate Sustainability Report, along with the penalties we have paid, for our entire operating footprint.

So now you know, as Paul Harvey would famously say, the rest of the story.

The next time those carnival barkers splash around ‘over 400 violations’ and ‘untrustworthy’, remember what is really going on here. Knowledge is power.

Indeed, we should heed Immanuel Kant’s famous adage to 'dare to know.’

1 A spill is defined as any release of a regulated substance causing or threatening pollution of waters of the Commonwealth, or a release of five gallons or more of a regulated substance over a 24-hour period that is not completely contained by secondary containment. A slip or slide describes movement of soil, including topsoil, resulting in failure of stabilization along the surface potentially leading to erosion and sedimentation.

2 The numbers discussed include the dozens of individual violations noted in the PA DEP Oil and Gas Compliance Report that misidentify CNX as the ‘responsible operator’, but have been rescinded due to an error by the inspector, or are accidental duplicates entered in the system.


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A CNX news hub highlighting all aspects of our Appalachia First vision. Subscribe for insights on energy innovation, advocacy, and community engagement across the region.