Processing Magazine

Pennsylvania residents sue over gas drilling

November 23, 2009
According to Reuters, residents of a small rural Pennsylvania town have sued Cabot Oil & Gas Corp, claiming the company''s natural-gas drilling has contaminated their water wells with toxic chemicals, caused sickness and reduced their property values. The lawsuit accuses the company of violating state environmental laws by allowing drilling chemicals to escape from gas wells, where they are used in a technique called hydraulic fracturing. A Cabot spokesman said the company had not had time to study the lawsuit in detail but said Cabot was in full compliance with Pennsylvania''s environmental laws and "disappointed" by the lawsuit. The company, like others in the industry, has argued that its drilling processes are safe because chemicals are heavily diluted and are injected into the ground through layers of steel and concrete thousands of feet below the aquifers that are used for drinking water. The industry says there has never been a documented case of groundwater contamination because of hydraulic fracturing. The case is one of the first to confront the industry over the technique, which critics’ claim pollutes aquifers with chemicals that can cause cancer and other serious illnesses. The lawsuit accuses Cabot of negligence and says it has failed to restore residential water supplies disrupted by gas drilling. It seeks a permanent injunction to stop the drilling processes that are blamed for the contamination, as well as unspecified compensatory damages. Residents of many gas-drilling areas in the United States say the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing are contaminating ground water. However, they have been unable to prove that, in part because energy companies are not required to disclose the composition of their drilling fluids.