The man – identified as 20-year-old Jeffrey Branham, a student intern from Arizona – had been working to clear a trail last week with others from the Student Conservation Association in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest, the Associated Press reported.
At some point, members of the group reportedly heard a loud boom and saw Branham and another worker run toward them covered in oil.
State police investigated and told the AP that Branham admitted to damaging three wells, whose pressure gauges were broken off.
Local authorities said about one barrel of oil was released onto the ground and some nearby trees.
In addition to charges of criminal mischief, Branham also faces a charge of risking a catastrophe, the AP said.