Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is formally charged Houston-based, Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation with Clean Stream Law violations in Dimock Township following a two-year Grand Jury investigation into environmental crimes committed by oil and gas companies across the state. Shapiro issued a release about the charges on Monday.
On Friday, the attorney general announced that Range Resources had entered a “no contest” plea to negligent oversight of well sites in Washington County.
The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, in conjunction with the 43rd Statewide Grand Jury, is charging Cabot with seven counts of Prohibition Against Discharge of Industrial Wastes, seven counts of Prohibition Against Other Pollutions and one count of Unlawful Conduct under the Clean Streams Law.
The Grand Jury’s investigation into the contamination of well water in Dimock, revealed that Cabot’s fracking activities were responsible for methane pollution in the local water supply. This contamination led to several Dimock residents suffering from the environmental hazards associated with repeated methane exposure, including Norma Fiorentino’s drinking water well exploding in January 2009.
Cabot’s Director of External Affairs George Stark said, “Today, Cabot was made aware of charges filed against the company. This is the first time we are seeing the charges and we will respond once we have fully reviewed them. Cabot is a leader in the energy industry and we value community commitment and environmental compliance.
Cabot will continue to work constructively with regulators, political representatives, and most importantly our neighbors in Pennsylvania to be responsible stewards of natural resources and the environment.”
The Grand Jury heard testimony from several residents, one of whom was a former Cabot employee with several gas wells on their property. According to the AG’s release, after several neighbors noticed that their water was cloudy and full of black specks, the former employee tested their own water supply: when they held up a match to a jug of the water that they used to bathe and drink, it caught fire.
Another resident recounted that after agreeing to have gas wells installed on their property, they began experiencing similar issues with their water. The resident testified that the family stopped drinking the water and began making a 14-mile round trip to pick up drinking water.
When the resident contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protections to ask when their water would be clean again, they were told that the water would be clean again in several years. A decade later, at the time of their appearance before the grand jury, the issue had remained unresolved.
“The Grand Jury presentments prove that Cabot took shortcuts that broke the law, and damaged our environment — harming our water supply and public health,” concluded Attorney General Shapiro.
“We are in the first stages of a long process to hold the well-connected accountable and meet the promise of our constitution to protect our environment for generations to come. We must protect Pennsylvanians, it is what we are dedicated to every day. This work will not stop. Our waters, air, and resources will be protected for this generation and the next to come.”