Dimock families sue Cabot, Gas drilling fallout

Dimock families sue Cabot, Gas drilling fallout by Fritz Mayer, Issue November 6 – December 2, 2009, The River Reporter
DIMOCK, PA — Fifteen families who live on Carter Road in Dimock Township, located in Susquehanna County, held a news conference on November 20 to announce that they had filed a lawsuit in federal court in Scranton. The suit is an effort to require Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation to address what the families claim is damage that has occurred to their homes, property and health as a consequence of natural gas drilling. While industry supporters say that fewer than one percent of gas wells result in accidents or contamination, the Carter Road area has, for more than a year, been a poster child for what can go wrong in a gas-drilling operation. Beginning in the fall of 2008, Cabot, which drilled a number of wells in the area, experienced numerous incidents with negative impacts. There were spills of diesel fuel, spills of fracking fluid, drilling mud discharges and contamination of private wells. The PA Department of Environmental Conservation (DEP) investigated these incidents and determined that Cabot was responsible for multiple violations of Pennsylvania law and was also responsible for allowing or causing methane to infiltrate the wells of 13 homes. On November 4, the DEP issued a consent order in which Cabot agreed to pay a $120,000 fine and take corrective actions. Cabot issued a press release that day saying it would take measures to address the incidents and, moreover, “The company has also agreed to provide a temporary water supply or treatment device to 13 homes in the nine-square-mile area. By taking these precautionary measures, the company and DEP are assured that the safety and health of the residents in the area are fully protected while the investigation of causes of methane in the groundwater continues.” Dan Dinges, chairman, president and CEO of Cabot, said, at the time, “I am pleased with the outcome of this matter as it gives us further assurance that there will be no interruption in our ongoing operations, while fully protecting the environment and residents nearby to our drilling activities.” That did not satisfy the demands of the Dimock families, all of whom had entered into lease agreements with Cabot as early as 2006. Their complaint repeats assertions already made by the DEP: that Cabot caused the release of combustible gas into the underground water supply and discharged hazardous chemicals and industrial wastes onto properties and into local streams. … A representative from Cabot said the company was disappointed by the complaint. Cabot spokesman Ken Komoroski told Reuters new service, “We don’t see the merit in these claims.” He also told the Associated Press news service that the gas in the private wells might have gotten there by natural causes, and it might have nothing to do with the Cabot drilling operations. The families maintain that before Cabot began drilling, the water in the wells was fine.

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