Dimock

New Lawsuit Filed in Next Chapter of Dimock, Pennsylvania, Fracking Water Pollution Saga

Ray Kemble

On April 12, Dimock, Pennsylvania resident Ray Kemble filed a nuisance and negligence lawsuit against Marcellus Shale drilling company Cabot Oil and Gas for alleged contamination of his groundwater and air. Kemble lives around the corner from the embattled Carter Road, where his neighbors have been struggling for years with a similar water pollution suit against Cabot.

Filed in U.S. District Court, Kemble's case is somewhat of a companion to the civil lawsuit brought by the Ely and Hubert families living on Carter Road. Their case began in 2009 and in March 2016, a jury awarded them a $4.24 million unanimous verdict for damages. However, the judge in their case recently overturned the verdict amid an ongoing dispute over the legality of evidence the families' attorney referenced during the trial.

Kemble, who has lived in his home since 1992, said in his complaint that he noticed “a change in his drinking water, including but not limited to discoloration and sediment build up” soon after Cabot began drilling near his property in 2008.

How a Judge Scrapped Pennsylvania Families' $4.24M Water Pollution Verdict in Gas Drilling Lawsuit

Ely family

For many residents of Carter Road in Dimock, Pennsylvania, it's been nearly a decade since their lives were turned upside down by the arrival of Cabot Oil and Gas, a company whose Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) wells were plagued by a series of spills and other problems linked to the area's contamination of drinking water supplies.

With a new federal court ruling handed down late last Friday, a judge unwound a unanimous eight-person jury which had ordered Cabot to pay a total of $4.24 million over the contamination of two of those families' drinking water wells. In a 58 page ruling, Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson discarded the jury's verdict in Ely v. Cabot and ordered a new trial, extending the legal battle over one of the highest-profile and longest-running fracking-related water contamination cases in the country.

New Federal Report Shows Dimock Water Unsafe

Back in 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a startling announcement, shaking up the battle over fracking in one of the nation's highest-profile cases where drillers were suspected to have caused water contamination.

Water testing results were in for homeowners along Carter Road in Dimock, PA, where for years, homeowners reported their water had turned brown, became flammable, or started clogging their well with “black greasy feeling sediment” after Cabot Oil and Gas began drilling in the area. The EPA seemed to conclude the water wasn't so bad after all.

 “The sampling and an evaluation of the particular circumstances at each home did not indicate levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action,” EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said in a press release.

The drilling industry crowed. “The data released today once again confirms the EPA's and DEP's findings that levels of contaminants found do not possess a threat to human health and the environment,” Cabot said in a statement.

It’s obviously very good news for the folks who actually live there, and pretty squarely in line with what we’ve known up there for a while now,” Energy in Depth told POLITICOPro. “It’s not very good news for the out-of-state folks who have sought to use Dimock as a talking point in their efforts to prevent development elsewhere, but I’m sure they’ll be working hard over the weekend to spin it differently, notwithstanding the pretty clear statement made by EPA today.”

Now, a newly published report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), part of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), puts EPA's testing results into an entirely new light.

New York State Refuses Permit for Constitution Pipeline in Major Victory for Anti-Fracking Organizers

In a striking victory for grassroots environmental and community groups, New York state's Department of Environmental Conservation announced on April 22 that it had denied a key permit for a pipeline that would have carried fracked gas from Pennsylvania to planned natural gas export facilities in New York state.

The Constitution Pipeline, planned to stretch 125 feet wide and 124 miles long starting near Dimock, PA and crossing over 275 streams and waterways, would have required the cutting of as many as 700,000 trees in Pennsylvania and New York, part of a build-out project estimated to cost investors as much as $1 billion.

But in recent months, the project faced escalating opposition, not only from larger environmental nonprofits, but also from a coalition of local landowners and activists who adopted tactics ranging from collecting over 15,000 public comments for New York state's review of the project to civil disobedience at federal hearings.

Dimock Water Contamination Verdict Prompts Calls for Federal Action on Fracking

Last week, in a historic verdict, a Pennsylvania jury awarded $4.24 million to two families in Dimock, PA who sued a shale gas driller, Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., over negligent drilling that contaminated their drinking water supplies.

Dimock has for years been one the nation's highest-profile cases where shale gas drilling and fracking was suspected to have contaminated water, a claim the oil and gas industry strenuously denied. Controversy over the water quality swirled as state and federal regulators repeatedly flip-flopped over who was responsible for the water contamination — and whether the water might even be safe to drink.

For years, Cabot Oil and Gas has maintained that the problems with the water were simply cosmetic or aesthetic, and that even if the water was not good, their operations in the area had nothing to do with it.

The federal jury's verdict last Thursday represents a legal conclusion that the water was in fact contaminated because of the negligence of the drilling company — no small matter for those who spent years living in a deeply fractured community where emotions over the shale rush have run high and pitted neighbor against neighbor.

The verdict also has broader ramifications for the national debate over shale drilling and water contamination.

BREAKING: $4.2 Million Jury Verdict Against Cabot Oil & Gas in Dimock, PA Water Contamination Lawsuit

A Pennsylvania jury handed down a $4.24 million verdict in a lawsuit centering on water contamination from negligent shale gas drilling in Dimock, PA, a tiny town that made international headlines for its flammable and toxic drinking water.

Proposed Marcellus Gas Pipeline Sparks Protest At Prized Maple Farm

Plans to build a major Marcellus shale gas pipeline were briefly paused this month by a protest launched by a collection of community and environmental activists who gathered on the Holleran-Zeffer property in New Milford, PA.

Pipeline company Williams Partners, LLC plans to start clearing trees on the property as early as this week to make way for a proposed 124-mile pipeline stretching across the Pennsylvania-New York border.

Tree felling for Williams' Constitution pipeline project began in Pennsylvania on February 5, before New York state had finished its regulatory approval process. Environmentalists fear that the company hopes to present New York state with a fait accompli on the Pennsylvania side, which would put pressure on New York regulators to approve the expansion on its side of the border.

High-Profile Trial Begins in Dimock, PA Water Contamination Case

Trial began this week in a case alleging that an oil and gas company contaminated drinking water in Dimock, Pennsylvania. The tiny town is now internationally notorious over claims that drilling and fracking tainted people's drinking water and caused it to become flammable.

This lawsuit is the first such case out of Dimock to reach a jury, nearly a decade after many residents of Carter Road, a short stretch of dirt road in the Endless Mountains region of Pennsylvania, first noticed that their water seemed to have gone bad.

“We haven't had clean water since he was in kindergarten,” Monica Marta-Ely told reporters during a press conference outside the courthouse on Monday, as she gestured to her 13 year-old son, Jared. “He's in 7th grade now.”

It's a legal case that is as noticeable for the allegations being tried —  that Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. negligently contaminated the water supplying Nolan Scott Ely and his family and that living without water for years was a serious nuisance for the Elys and the Huberts, a family living in a trailer on the Ely's land — as for the claims and evidence that the jury will not hear.

Leaked EPA Dimock, PA Water Contamination Presentation Published By DeSmog in Play in Federal Suit

A PowerPoint presentation obtained from a source and published by DeSmog in August 2013 has made its way into a major hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) related legal case, which is set to go to trial soon in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. 

That document was presented as a legal exhibit on December 30 as part of a motion by the plaintiffs in opposition to exclude some evidence during the jury trial made by the defendant, Cabot Oil & Gas. The motion cites the exhibit to reveal how the Obama Administration's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ignored the evidence of its own staff scientists in declaring the contaminated water safe to drink in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

"Abandoned" by EPA, Landowers from Dimock, Pavillion, Parker County Demand Inclusion in EPA National Fracking Study

For the past five years, the EPA has undertaken a highly-consequential national study on the impacts that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) can have on American drinking water supplies.

The agency will look to the results of this program as the basis for its scientific conclusions and recommendations on hydraulic fracturing,” EPA said in a 2013 statement.

This June, the national study's draft assessment was released to the public, and while hundreds of spills, accidents, and even cases where fracking itself directly contaminated underground aquifers (a method of pollution that the oil industry had long argued had never happened) were reported by EPA, it was a phrase from the agency's press release that drew the attention of the national media: “hydraulic fracturing activities in the U.S. are carried out in a way that have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

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