Water Management Company Sentenced To Pay $2 Million In Fines For Clean Air Act Violations
WILLIAMSPORT – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that on April 20, 2021, United States District Judge Matthew W. Brann sentenced Rockwater Northeast LLC to pay $2 million in fines and $12,400 in special assessments for violating the Clean Air Act.
According to Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, Rockwater Northeast LLC, a Pennsylvania-based company that provides water management services to companies in the oil and gas industry, pleaded guilty to an information charging 31 counts of violating the Clean Air Act. The information charged Rockwater Northeast LLC with tampering with the emissions systems on 31 heavy-duty diesel trucks owned by the company, and installing “defeat devices” that disabled emissions diagnostic systems on the trucks. Rockwater Northeast LLC also is alleged to have caused the trucks to pass annual vehicle safety inspections by the Department of Transportation (DOT), despite the modified emissions systems.
Separately, Select Energy Services, Inc., a Texas-based company and the successor in interest to Rockwater Energy Solutions, Inc., parent company of Rockwater Northeast LLC, entered a three-year non-prosecution agreement with the United States. The agreement resolves Clean Air Act violations for modified emissions systems on 29 additional heavy-duty diesel trucks that were owned by Rockwater Energy Solutions, Inc. Select Energy Services, Inc. paid an additional $2.3 million in monetary penalties pursuant to the terms of a non-prosecution agreement.
Select Energy Services, Inc. has cooperated with the investigation since its acquisition of Rockwater Energy Solutions, Inc. in 2017. Under the terms of the non-prosecution agreement, Select Energy Services, Inc. agreed to continue cooperating with the government, and implemented an environmental compliance program designed to prevent future Clean Air Act violations. Select Energy Services, Inc. also commenced conducting annual audits during the three-year term of the agreement, to ensure Clean Air Act compliance.
Six individuals have been prosecuted in connection with this investigation; four of whom are current or former employees of Rockwater Northeast LLC, and two of whom are former third-party vendors of Rockwater Northeast LLC. All six individuals pleaded guilty to conspiring to impede the lawful functions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and DOT, and to violate the Clean Air Act:
- Brian Mellot, of Cumberland, Maryland, was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and one year of supervised release;
- Gavin Rexer of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing;
- Dennis Paulhamus of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing;
- Joseph Powell of Hickory, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing;
- John Joseph of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing; and
- Timothy Sweitzer of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
The matter was investigated by the EPA’s Criminal Investigations Division and the DOT’s Office of the Inspector General, with the assistance of the Pennsylvania State Police and other law enforcement agencies. Assistant United States Attorneys Phillip J. Caraballo and Sean Camoni, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Patricia C. Miller prosecuted the case.
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