Gas driller takes no issue with city water pollution

MONTROSE, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s most active gas driller did not contest criminal charges on Tuesday, closing a landmark environmental case against a company that prosecutors say polluted a community’s drinking water. rural 14 years ago, then tried to escape responsibility.

Residents of the small hub of Dimock in northeastern Pennsylvania said their aquifer was crumbling and Houston-based Coterra Energy had failed to repair it. This has led to one of the largest pollution cases ever created by the drilling and fracking boom in the United States.

As part of a plea deal reached in neighboring Susquehanna County Court, Coterra agreed to pay $16.29 million to connect residents’ homes to a clean water source and pay their water bills for the next 75 years.

Coterra’s predecessor, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., was indicted in June 2020 on 15 counts, mostly felonies, after a grand jury investigation found the company drilled gas wells. defective that had leaked flammable methane into the residential water supply in Dimock and surrounding areas. communities.

The grand jury lambasted what it called Cabot’s « long-term disregard for the damage he caused to the environment and the citizens of Susquehanna County. » Many residents continued to avoid using their well water, instead using bottled water, commercially purchased bulk water, and even water drawn from streams and artesian wells.

After being charged, the company had denied any suggestion that it « acted with indifference to the community in which we live and operate ». Cabot, which merged with Denver-based Cimarex Energy Co. to form Coterra, has long maintained that the gas in residents’ water is natural.

Coterra did not contest a charge of industrial waste disposal bans under the state’s clean stream law.

Dimock’s battle over water issues was featured in the 2010 Emmy-winning documentary « Gasland », which showed residents setting their tap water on fire.

Residents were notified of the plea deal last week. Pennsylvania American Water has announced plans to drill two wells – what it calls a « public groundwater system » – and build a treatment plant that will remove all contaminants from the water before pipe it to around 20 houses in Dimock.

The criminal case hasn’t slowed Coterra’s business. It is the main shale gas driller in the country’s second largest natural gas producing state.

Michael Rubinkam, Associated Press


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