Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro on Monday announced his office is formally charging Cabot Oil and Gas, an unconventional gas, or “fracking,” company, for environmental crimes that occurred in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The charges are part of a two-year grand jury investigation into environmental crimes alleged to have been committed by unconventional oil and gas companies across the commonwealth.
The grand jury heard testimony about contaminated well water in Dimock, Susquehanna County, and found that Cabot’s fracking activities were responsible for methane pollution in the local water supply.
This contamination led to several Dimock residents suffering from the environmental hazards associated with repeated methane exposure, including a well used for drinking water exploding in January 2009.
After several neighbors noticed that their water was cloudy and full of black specks, a former Cabot employee, not identified in the attorney general’s news release, tested his or her own supply, holding up a match to a jug of the water used to bathe and drink. It caught fire.
Cabot has been charged with seven counts of discharging prohibited industrial wastes, seven counts of releasing other pollutants and one count of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law.
On Friday, in Washington County Court before Judge Valarie Costanzo, Range Resources -Appalachia LLC entered a “no contest” plea to negligent oversight at two Washington County Marcellus Shale natural gas well sites, the Yeager wastewater storage pond in Amwell Township and the company’s Brownlee site in Buffalo Township, where wastewater tanks leaked into a field and unnamed tributary of Buffalo Creek.
Range was ordered to pay $100,000 in charitable contributions to Washington County Watershed Alliance, $47,000 to the Solid Waste Abatement Fund and $3,000 to the Clean Water Fund.
Mark Windle, Range spokesman, said Range has completed full mediation at both sites.
The grand jury intends to issue a report documenting bases for legislative, executive and administrative action, according to findings of fact filed with Washington County Court.