Anschutz Exploration accused of contaminating water by Cathy Proctor, February 14, 2011, Denver Business Journal
A New York City law firm has filed suit against Anschutz Exploration Corp., alleging that the company and its subcontractors contaminated groundwater in the Horseheads, N.Y., area through their drilling operations. The oil and gas company is a division of The Anschutz Corp. in Denver, owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz. Napoli Bern Ripka & Associates LLP filed the suit with the Chemung County, N.Y., division of the New York Supreme Court system. The firm’s complaint, on behalf of nine families, claims groundwater was contaminated by two natural gas wells the Anschutz oil and gas company drilled almost 10,000 feet deep, then turned horizontally, into New York’s Trenton Black River shale formation. The formation is about twice as deep as the better-known Marcellus shale formation, according to the firm. The lawsuit alleges the company was negligent in drilling, constructing and operating the wells, and contaminating the water supplies of nine families. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as money to monitor the future health of the families, according to the firm’s announcement. The suit is the first in New York revolving around alleged groundwater contamination caused by natural gas drilling, according to the law firm.
Jim Monaghan, a spokesman for The Anschutz Corp., said Monday the company hasn’t seen the lawsuit and declined to comment on it. But he said Anschutz Exploration is aware of water problems where it’s drilled in New York and has cooperated with a state investigation of the cause. The state’s preliminary analysis hasn’t implicated the company as the cause of the water problems, and Anschutz Exploration continues to cooperate with state investigators, Monaghan said. Napoli Bern expects to file a similar suit in Colorado, alleging groundwater contamination due to negligence by oil and gas companies, by the end of the month, said Marc Bern, a senior partner at the firm. A meeting of residents who believe they’ve been harmed by oil and gas operations is scheduled for Feb. 22 in Glenwood Springs. “This is a warning to all gas drillers in the great state of New York that the health and safety of the residents and the environment must be placed ahead of corporate profits,” Bern said in a statement.