Gas co. may be liable for water quality

Date: February 28, 2011

Federal judge rules in favor of Lenox Twp. families whose well pad was contaminated.

MATT HUGHES mhughes@timesleader.com

SCRANTON – For the time being, at least, a natural gas drilling company may be held strictly liable for drinking water contamination near one of its well sites, a federal district judge ruled Wednesday.

Lawyers for Southwestern Energy Production Co., Houston, Texas, moved to dismiss a count of strict liability in the civil lawsuit filed against the company by 13 Susquehanna County families in federal court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

The families filed a federal class-action lawsuit in September against the drilling company, saying that hydraulic fracturing at a Lenox Township well pad has contaminated drinking water and damaged the health and quality of life of area residents.

Southwestern maintains the alleged water contamination has no factual basis.

Judge A. Richard Caputo ruled Feb. 3 that though strict liability has not been found in analogous cases, the court will wait until after evidence has been presented in the trial\’s discovery phase to determine Southwestern Energy\’s liability.

Parties may be held to strict liability for damages caused to other persons, land or property when their activities are determined to be abnormally dangerous.

All but two of the plaintiffs live along state Route 92 in the township between 700 and 1,700 feet from the Price No. 1 Well Pad, which is operated by a wholly owned subsidiary of Southwestern Energy Production Co., Houston, Texas. Two other families do not live in the area but state in the suit that they regularly drank contaminated water at the residences of two other families listed as plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs claim their drinking water supplies were contaminated by improper or insufficient cement casings around the Price No. 1 well pad, which allowed industrial waste, including hydraulic fracturing fluid, to enter drinking water wells.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, fluid is the mixture of water, sediment and chemicals injected into the ground to create fissures and release the natural gas being extracted from Marcellus Shale.

Copyright: Times Leader

Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.