"Two recent Pennsylvania lawsuits, filed separately against Southwest Energy Co. and Chesapeake Energy Corp., claim that their gas drilling has contaminated local water supplies...
and harmed the related property values."
Claim 1: gas drilling contaminated the water
"...defense attorneys can try to play out the clock on the water contamination claim with what you could call the tobacco defense -- first deny there was any contamination, then that gas drilling caused it, then insist the issue needs more study,and finally say there's no way to quantify the damage. By the time they're ready to settle, it's many years later, and drilling's gone on apace. ... case will be an appeal to common sense -- that the water was fine until drilling began, so it obviously caused the contamination. How useful common sense will be in a court room remains to be seen. ...expects the case to last at least two years -- before appeals."
Claim 2: gas drilling has harmed property values
"It's the stronger claim, ...I don't think there is a defense against it. Nationwide, the statistical case that gas drilling depresses property values is practically bullet-proof."
AN ALTERNATE CLAIM: Anticipatory Nuisance
"...it's basically the notion that you can stop your neighbor from doing something if waiting to sue until you're harmed is ludicrous. In a western, this is where the marshal says you shot in self-defense. 'It's a doctrine that's established in common law, ...A court would not be making new law' by supporting such a claim, and 'it presents a plaintiff with a lot of ammunition.' The beauty here is that applying the case law to gas drilling is no stretch."
"These are really ...different sorts of lawsuits; (the first two) compensate you if drilling's already taken place and the (third) would stop it before it happened."
"Here's the scenario. Most gas leases in New York, Ohio, and much of Pennsylvania are running out and need to be renewed. It's one of the big reasons drilling's taking place now; if they are renewed, the lease prices will jump, but if the well's drilled before the lease expires, the old deal still holds.
"This is where you get together with the neighbors who don't want drilling around them, and then explain to the neighbor with the lease that if he does drill, he'll have to make their neighbors whole, and if he renews, he'll be sued for anticipatory nuisance.
"Taking this approach probably wouldn't make your neighbor your best friend;but a cynic might point out that he probably wasn't thinking about you when he signed the lease in the first place. And it does offer the promise of letting you sit on your porch for years, watching the sunset."
"The Oklahoma City-based company - which is working toward drilling on private property near The Highlands in Ohio County and at other locations throughout the Wheeling area - received four separate "Order for Compliance" forms from the EPA, citing the driller for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act. The orders show the earthwork occurred at various points from January 2007 through this month."
From local residents Ed Wade and Bill Hughes
of the Wetzel County Action Group:
"Chesapeake 'has been doing these things for years.'"
"They need to put the waterfall back," Wade said. "If we can send a man to the moon, they can rebuild that waterfall."
"Wade said one of the main problems involving the natural gas development is that 'everybody just sees the money.'"
"Chesapeake knows that the state does not have anywhere near enough inspectors - therefore they can pretty much do what they want and then move on to the next site because the state inspectors will never catch up with them."
Chesapeake spokesman Matt Sheppard
blew the usual sunshine up our collective ass:
"Chesapeake Appalachia LLC is committed to the responsible development of our clean-burning, domestic natural gas resources and environmental stewardship,"
"In two communities in Wyoming and Texas where fracking is taking place, between 70 and 80% of residents are experiencing respiratory problems."
"While drilling is often touted as a job-maker for local communities, fully 70% of the industry's workers in Pennsylvania come from out of state."
"The natural gas methane--which is not only deadly to humans but a potent greenhouse gas--has been recorded at asphyxiation levels in some homes near fracking sites."
"High rates of sexual predation--including predation on children--are reported among fracking workers."
"Though Pennsylvania's State Senate insists that a severance tax will drive industry away, Wyoming, with the highest taxes among western states, also has the highest energy production in the U.S. (indeed, it ranks close to the top compared to other energy-producing nations)".
"...as evidenced by today's summit, the movement against fracking is growing larger every day."
"The chief message I took from today's meeting was the need to learn as much as possible about this issue, and to act on that knowledge in every way imaginable."
"I'll be going back tomorrow to continue that process."
"Today I attended a rally in downtown Pittsburgh to protest industry plans to drill tens of thousands of natural gas wells (through a process known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”) into the Marcellus Shale formation that lies beneath
our fields, forests, and cities.
The rush to drill is based on two deeply flawed propositions that, if exposed and rejected, may well set us on the road to recovery as a people and as a world:
1. Natural gas is a clean energy source.
This is, quite simply, bullshit.
While natural gas is marginally cleaner-burning than coal or oil, the process by which it’s extracted is brimming with environmental hazards: contaminated water, damaged soil, toxic air. Of the three, the threat to water is perhaps the most ominous: the amount of water required to drill one well is astronomical, and there’s precious little regulation concerning where that water comes from and where it goes after it’s been drenched in hazardous chemicals. As several speakers at today’s rally pointed out, if drilling is as safe as the industry claims, then why did they enlist Dick Cheney and his cronies in Congress to ensure that legislation would be passed exempting the fracking process from key provisions of the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Superfund law? To tout natural gas as a “clean” alternative to oil is akin to praising crack as a safer-burning form of cocaine.
2. Natural gas represents a “transition fuel” to a clean energy economy. Again, total bullshit.
If you look at the history of the fossil fuel industry, you’ll find plenty of transitions--but only from one fossil fuel to a yet more cheap, abundant, energy-intensive, and environmentally destructive fossil fuel. From charcoal to coal to petroleum, the industry has tried them all, and they’re seeking newer and unhealthier sources of energy (tar sands and the like) even as we speak. There’s simply no incentive for the industry to do anything else, and anyone who thinks it will diversify out of the goodness of its heart or concern for its customers has been drinking its toxic Kool-Aid for way too long. (We all saw how well BP fulfilled its vow to move “beyond petroleum,” right?) Unless the rest of us make it inconvenient, unprofitable, and in fact illegal for these vampires to conduct their filthy business, the industry will continue to suck fossil fuels from the planet until it’s literally sucked dry. If we are to embrace a clean energy future, it has to start now, with heavy investment in renewables and disincentives for business as usual. This will hurt in the short term, but it will not hurt nearly as much in the long term as a continued dependence on fossil fuels.
So if you’re following this issue, keep your eyes on Pittsburgh. If my hometown can secure victory in this battle--if we can claim our land, our communities, and our health as inalienable rights no one can steal--then the collapse of the fossil fuel industry is within grasp, and a sustainable world within reach.
Drill in Pittsburgh? As they chanted at today's rally: "No fracking way!"
Elizabeth “Chris” Mobaldi, 63, died on Nov. 14, at 4:40 a.m., after a lengthy battle with a rare and persistent tumor of the pituitary gland, according to her husband, Steve.
From 1993 to 2004, the Mobaldis had lived near Rifle, on County Road 320 south of the Colorado River, Steve Mobaldi recalled in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
According to testimony by Mobaldi before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in Washington, D.C., the couple suffered symptoms such as headaches, burning eyes and skin, which they believed were related to the drilling rigs as close as 300 feet from their home.
Chris Mobaldi, aside from her other symptoms, developed rashes, blisters and a rare malady known as “foreign accent syndrome,” a speech abnormality that is quite rare.
A physician who treated Chris Mobaldi, Dr. Kendall Gerdes of Colorado Springs, said, “When I first met her ... I thought it must be some kind of Eastern European thing.”
Asked if he agrees with Steve Mobaldi's assertion that the symptoms are in some way related to exposure to gas drilling activities, Gerdes said simply, “I do.”