When Decisions Matter.

Check Before You Disturb: Be Aware of Nearby Water

Small mistakes can lead to big penalties. Big mistakes can lead to even bigger penalties, especially with respect to water resources. An awareness of nearby bodies of water and wetlands when engaging in construction, earthmoving, agricultural activities, or maintenance of facilities is critical to avoiding costly penalties. Additionally, it is important to wait until you actually receive the permit to begin the work. Surprisingly, even large companies sometimes “put the cart before the horse.” This type of mistake landed Sunoco Pipeline L.C. in hot water with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), costing the company a $59,000 civil penalty.

Sunoco, a crude oil transportation company, began doing pipeline repair work around wetlands without first obtaining a permit. Sunoco previously applied for the permit, but did not wait until the permit was granted before beginning the repairs. In a settlement with the company, DEP states that seven separate wetlands were affected by the repair work. Additionally, Sunoco installed a valve station in a floodway without a permit, impacting two small streams this failure to obtain a permit before work began near these bodies of water violated Pennsylvania’s Dam Safety and Encroachments Act.

Mistakes like this can quickly add up. It is critical that anyone considering work that could disturb wetlands or bodies of water be aware of the location of those waters and have the necessary permits in hand before the work starts. This warning is true for all types of businesses, not just large companies. Work impacting wetlands and water bodies could implicate multiple environmental laws and involve both state and federal regulatory agencies. In this case, contrary to the old adage, it is essential (and less costly) to first ask for permission, rather than to ask for forgiveness.

If you have questions about complying with the Dam Safety and Encroachments Act or another environmental law, please contact our Environmental Group.

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