$1.6M Settlement in Pa. Marcellus Drilling Lawsuit
Washington PA Observer Reporter
23 June 2012
PITTSBURGH Three Northeastern Pennsylvania families have reached a
$1.6 million settlement with a gas drilling company over
contaminated water wells.
But Jared McMicken of Wyalusing said the agreement reached
Thursday provides little comfort since his drinking water was
ruined by nearby drilling, and his family must move.
“We’ve lost our house, and we’re not going to get out of it what
we got into it,” he said. “We have a bunch of people who have to
leave their homes.”
The dispute with Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy began in 2010.
Wyalusing is about 160 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
McMicken said he and the other families in the case insisted that
any settlement be made public. The arbitration trial began this
week and was settled on the fourth day.
Attorney Todd O’Malley said he believes this is the first case
involving pollution in the Marcellus Shale region where settlement
terms were publicly disclosed. Past disputes have been sealed.
The Marcellus is a gas-rich rock formation thousands of feet under
large parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.
Over the past five years, advances in drilling technology made the
gas accessible, leading to a boom in production, jobs, and profits
and a drop in natural gas prices for consumers.
Chesapeake said in a statement it believes there is no permanent
damage to the properties and other water wells in the area showed
natural contamination before drilling began. McMicken disputed
that, saying his water and that of his neighbors was fine before
Last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
fined Chesapeake more than $1 million for contaminating the water
supplies of 16 families in the area, including McMicken’s. A
transcript of expert testimony in the settlement showed that
experts from DEP agreed faulty cement casings on the wells allowed
gas and other substances to migrate from deep underground and
pollute the water wells.
“They screwed up all the wells on this mountain. Anybody that
lives in this area are going to pay the price over time,” McMicken
Attorney John Romano said he’s representing about 30 other
families in the region with similar claims.
Under the terms of the settlement, the families will have to give
Chesapeake the properties by the end of 2012.
“While Chesapeake remains confident that the water supply is
consistent with area water-quality standards, it has entered into
the settlement so the families and the company could bring closure
to the matter,” the company said.