Tuesday, November 29, 2022

AG Shapiro: Coterra Energy, Formerly Cabot Oil & Gas, Pleads No Contest To A Criminal Charge Related To Polluting Water Supplies In Dimock, Susquehanna County

On November 29, Attorney General and Governor-elect Josh Shapiro announced Coterra Energy Inc., formerly known as Cabot Oil and Gas, 
has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of prohibition against discharge of industrial wastes under the state's Clean Streams Law in Dimock, Susquehanna County. 

As part of the plea Coterra will pay $16.29 million for the construction of a new public water supply in Susquehanna County.

[Between January 1, 2005 and November 1, 2022, DEP said it received and resolved 4,859 water supply contamination complaints for both conventional oil and gas and unconventional shale gas well drilling.  DEP has a list of 392 water supplies it says were affected by drilling.]

“Residents of Dimock have waited far too long for the clean water Pennsylvania’s Constitution is supposed to guarantee all of us,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro at a press conference today in Susquehanna County. “Today, Coterra, the corporate successor of Cabot Oil and Gas, took full responsibility for the crimes Cabot committed that polluted resident’s water. Under this historic settlement, Coterra will now pay to build a new public water line that will provide clean, reliable drinking water for generations to come.”

The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General charged Coterra Energy Inc. in 2020 after a Grand Jury investigation into the contamination of well water in Dimock, Susquehanna County.  Read more here. 

The investigation revealed that the company’s activities associated with drilling and producing unconventional gas wells were responsible for methane pollution in the local water supply. 

This contamination led to multiple Dimock residents suffering from impacts to their own personal water supplies, including the explosion of Norma Fiorentino’s drinking water well in January 2009.

During the investigation, the Grand Jury heard testimony from several residents who shared stories of their water becoming contaminated after allowing Coterra to drill wells on their property. 

In some cases the water was so contaminated it even caught fire. These residents and their families were forced to stop drinking their water as it was impacted with metals and high levels of methane. 

In order to supply their homes with this necessity, residents had to travel miles to pick up drinking water.

When one 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.

Coterra entered a plea to Prohibition Against Discharge of Industrial Wastes, a violation of the Clean Streams Law. 

As part of the plea agreement, Coterra will pay $16.29 million toward a new regulated public water line as well as payment of 75 years of water bills for the impacted homeowners. 

This money will also be used to provide treatment systems to treat the homeowners’ water supplies and the provision of bottled water while the public water line is under construction.

“This agreement brings justice to the residents of Dimock who for years had been ignored,” said AG Shapiro. “People across the country remember what happened here in Dimock, and now, they will know the rule of law won the day. Companies will take notice that we won’t allow communities like this to be taken advantage of or forgotten.”

The agreement is the result of years of thorough investigation and evaluation by independent experts to sample and analyze the water contamination and develop an engineering plan that would best serve the needs of the residents of Dimock.  

The construction and operation of the water line will be overseen by Pennsylvania American Water Company, a company with years of experience providing water to the Commonwealth, that is currently serving nearly 19% of Pennsylvanians. 

While it will take time to construct, this water line will ultimately provide the residents of Dimock with clean, safe drinking water when they turn on their tap. 

Access to this clean water is a right that has been elusive to these homeowners for more than a decade.

Continuing Water Supply Impacts

Between January 1, 2005 and November 1, 2022, DEP said it received and resolved 4,859 water supply contamination complaints for both conventional oil and gas and unconventional shale gas well drilling, according to its Water Supply Resolved Complaints Database

DEP listed 4,222 as “no final determination;” 305 as “no investigation;” 273 as “final determination of contamination;” and 59 as “undetermined,” but all were listed as “resolved.”

This Database does not include the water supply complaints DEP is still investigating.

DEP has a list of 392 water supplies it has determined were impacted by conventional or unconventional oil and gas drilling either temporarily or permanently, but few specifics are provided.

Some recent examples of water supplies impacted by oil and gas drilling include--

-- The Center for Coalfield Justice will distribute over 3,000 cases of water on November 19 at the New Freeport Fire Company in Greene County to help families who haven’t had clean drinking water since June following an alleged ‘frack-out’ at an EQT shale gas drill pad.  Read more here.

-- On October 28, the owner of a Washington County farm-- Bryan Latkanich and his three children Ryan, Hunter and Colton-- filed a lawsuit against Chevron and EQT shale gas companies alleging they violated the terms of their drilling lease by endangering their health, contaminating their water supply and not protecting their land.  Read more here.

(Photo: Ray Kemble of Dimock, displays a jug of what he identifies as his contaminated well water, StateImpactPA.)

Related Article:

-- What Can We Expect From Gov. Shapiro, Lt. Gov. Davis On Environmental, Energy Issues?  [PaEN]


-- AP: Coterra Energy, Formerly Cabot Oil & Gas, Pleads No Contest To 15 Criminal Charges Related To Polluting Water Supplies In Dimock, Susquehanna County

-- WHYY - Susan Phillips: Natural Gas Driller Will Pay Millions For New Water System In Dimock, Susquehanna County 

-- WSJ - Kris Maher: Fracking Company Pleads No Contest To Criminal Pollution Charges In Pennsylvania 

-- Inside Climate News - Jon Hurdle: Fracking Company To Pay For Public Water System In Rural PA Town

-- StateImpactPA - Rachel McDevitt: Methane Emissions Limits On Conventional Oil & Gas Wells To Get Emergency Vote Wednesday To Avoid Loss Of Federal Funds

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: Malfunction At Shell’s Ethane Plant In Beaver County Turned Sky Orange By Burning Natural Gas Flaring System

-- Erie Times - Brian Whipkey: Raystown Lake Receives National Acclaim For Protecting Fish

-- DEP $1.95 Million Penalty Assessment Against Mariner East 2 Natural Gas Liquids Pipeline Construction Pollution At Raystown Lake Supports Fish Habitat Improvements

-- Pittsburgh Business Times: EQT’s Toby Rice Calls For ‘Unleashing LNG’ Natural Gas To Solve Climate Problem, End Poverty Other Societal Ills

Related Articles - Current Oil & Gas Water Supply Impacts:

-- Center For Coalfield Justice Holds First Water Distribution Day Nov. 19 To Help Provide Families Drinking Water In Greene County Following Alleged ‘Frack-Out’ At Natural Gas Well Site In June  [PaEN]

-- Washington County Family Lawsuit Alleges Shale Gas Company Violated The Terms Of Their Lease By Endangering Their Health, Contaminating Their Water Supply And Not Protecting Their Land  [PaEN]

Related Articles - Major Oil & Gas Criminal/Monetary Penalties Last 2 Years:

-- House Committee Fails To Address $70 Million In Penalties On Natural Gas Pipelines Or Real Concerns Of People Living Near Gas Production & Distribution Facilities

-- AG Shapiro: Energy Transfer/Sunoco Convicted Of Criminal Charges Related To Construction Of Mariner East 2 & Revolution Natural Gas/Liquids Pipelines In PA

-- Sunoco/Mariner East Pipeline To Pay $4 Million In Damages And Restore Lake At Marsh Creek State Park Polluted By A Spill In Chester County

-- Federal Court Approves DEP, EPA, DOJ Settlement With Chesapeake Appalachia For Failure To Identify, Protect Wetlands At 76 Gas Well Drilling Sites, $1.9 Million Penalty

-- PUC Imposes $1 Million Penalty On Energy Transfer Company For 2018 Revolution Pipeline Explosion In Beaver County

-- DEP Collects $497,000, Fish & Boat Commission Collects $25,855 In Penalties For Latest Violations Involving Mariner East 2 Pipeline Construction In Lebanon County

-- DEP: Range Resources Pays $294,000 Penalty For Delaying The Plugging Of 42 Conventional Oil & Gas Wells In 8 Counties

-- DEP Assesses $200,000 In Penalties For Drilling Wastewater Spills By CNX In Greene County 

-- DEP: Olympus Energy Natural Gas Driller Fined $175,000 For Water Quality Violations In Allegheny County

-- DEP Collects $147,250 Penalty From Rice Drilling B LLC For Erosion & Sedimentation Violations In Greene County; DEP Found Rice Had Hundreds Of Other Violations, Including Abandoning Wells Without Plugging Them

-- DEP Collects $140,000 Penalty From ETC Northeast Field Services For Pipeline Construction Violations In Beaver County

-- DEP Order Requires Payment Of $125,000 Penalty For Latest Revolution Natural Gas Pipeline Construction Violations In Beaver County

-- DEP Collects $85,000 Penalty For Mariner East 2 Pipeline Construction Violations In Blair, Cumberland, Juniata, Lebanon Counties

-- AP: PUC Judge: Sunoco/Energy Transfer Failed To Protect Delaware County Community During Construction Of Mariner East Pipeline, $51,000 Penalty Proposed

-- AG Shapiro: Southeast Directional Drilling Pleads Guilty To Contaminating Water Supply In Washington County, To Pay $15,000 Fine

Related Articles - Health & Environmental Impacts:

-- Senate Hearing: Body Of Evidence Is 'Large, Growing,’ ‘Consistent’ And 'Compelling' That Shale Gas Development Is Having A Negative Impact On Public Health; PA Must Act [PaEN]

-- Shale Gas & Public Health Conference: We've Got Enough Compelling Evidence To Enact Health Protective Policies For Families Now - By Edward C. Ketyer, M.D., President, Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania  [PaEN]

-- Shale Gas & Public Health Conference: When It Started, It Was Kind Of Nice, But What Happened Afterwards Really Kind Of Devastated Our Community - By Rev. Wesley Silva, former Council President Marianna Borough, Washington County  [PaEN]

-- Shale Gas & Public Health Conference: Economically, Socially Deprived Areas In PA Have A Much Greater Chance Of Having Oil & Gas Waste Disposed In Their Communities - By Joan Casey, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health  [PaEN]

-- Shale Gas & Public Health Conference: Living Near Oil & Gas Facilities Means Higher Health Risks, The Closer You Live, The Higher The Risk - By Nicole Deziel PhD MHS, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health  [PaEN]

-- DEP: PA Fracking Operations Sent Nearly 236,000 Cubic Feet Of Radioactive TENORM Waste To Low-Level Radioactive Waste Facilities For Disposal In 2021 - 811,070 since 2016  [PaEN]

-- Study: Industry Data Shows Hazardous Air Pollutants Are ‘Ubiquitous’ In The Natural Gas Transmission System; More Justification For Robust Leak Prevention Programs  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: Setback Distances And The Regulations We Need To Protect Public Health From Oil & Gas Facilities [PaEN]

-- UPDATED: After 14 Days, Efforts To Stop A Natural Gas Leak At A Cambria County Underground Gas Storage Area Have Apparently Been Successful  [PaEN] 

-- Penn State Study: Potential Pollution Caused By Road Dumping Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Makes It Unsuitable For A Dust Suppressant, Washes Right Off The Road Into The Ditch  [PaEN]

-- DEP Lists 84 Townships As ‘Waste Facilities’ Where Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Has Been Disposed Of By Road Spreading; Municipalities Need To Do Their Due Diligence [PaEN]

-- On-Site Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Waste Disposal Plans Making Hundreds Of Drilling Sites Waste Dumps [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Dispose Of Drill Cuttings By ‘Dusting’ - Blowing Them On The Ground, And In The Air Around Drill Sites  [PaEN]

-- Creating New Brownfields: Oil & Gas Well Drillers Notified DEP They Are Cleaning Up Soil & Water Contaminated With Chemicals Harmful To Human Health, Aquatic Life At 272 Locations In PA [PaEN]

-- Gov. Wolf, Senate, House Republicans Again Fail To Hold Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Accountable For Protecting The Environment, Taxpayers On Hook For Billions [PaEN]

-- Guest Essay: PA Politicians Capitalizing On Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine To Benefit Natural Gas Industry - By Lauren M. Williams, Esq., Greenworks Law & Consulting LLC  [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Reported Spreading 977,671 Gallons Of Untreated Drilling Wastewater On PA Roads In 2021  [PaEN]

-- NO SPECIAL PROTECTION: The Exceptional Value Loyalsock Creek In Lycoming County Is Dammed And Damned - Video Dispatch From The Loyalsock - By Barb Jarmoska, Keep It Wild PA [PaEN]

-- FracTracker Alliance Releases 4th Watershed Oil & Gas Drilling Impact Analysis In Susquehanna River Basin - Towanda & Schrader Creek Watersheds  [PaEN] 

-- FracTracker Alliance: Lycoming Creek Watershed Oil & Gas Drilling Impact Analysis In Lycoming County  [PaEN]

-- Rare Eastern Hellbender Habitat In Loyalsock Creek, Lycoming County Harmed By Sediment Plumes From Pipeline Crossings, Shale Gas Drilling Water Withdrawal Construction Projects  [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Natural Gas Drilling: An Industrial Machine Moving Across The PA Countryside Leaving Behind Big Liabilities & Spreading Pollution Everywhere It Goes [PaEN]

-- DEP Issued NOVs To Conventional Oil & Gas Companies For Abandoning 55 Wells Without Plugging Them During September Alone, A Dramatic Increase In New Well Abandonments  [PaEN]

-- Republican Chair Of House Environmental Committee Believes Opponents Of Natural Gas Infrastructure Projects ‘Just Need To Be Ignored And Politically Ran Over’ [PaEN]

Related Articles This Week:

-- DEP Has Ordered A ‘Top To Bottom Review’ Of How It Regulates Underground Natural Gas Storage Areas As A Result Of The Equitrans Gas Leak In Cambria County In Nov.  [PaEN]

-- DEP Preparing To Plug The Next 198 Abandoned Conventional Oil & Gas Wells With Federal Funding  [PaEN]

-- DEP: Schedule For Updating Conventional Oil & Gas Environmental, Waste Regulations Will Be Up To Gov. Shapiro  [PaEN]

-- EQB Overwhelmingly Approves Emergency Regulation Setting VOC/Methane Limits For Conventional Oil & Gas Facilities; Republicans Vote Against  [PaEN]

-- Dramatic Video From Carnegie Mellon’s Project Breathe Shows Shell Ethane Plant In Beaver County Flaring Natural Gas Due To Malfunction  [PaEN]

-- Natural Resources Defense Council Blog: Rising Cost Of Pennsylvania’s Petrochemical Industry Subsidies - By Mark Szybist

[Posted: November 29, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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