| DIMOCK, Pennsylvania
DIMOCK, Pennsylvania Nov 20 Residents of a
small rural Pennsylvania town sued Cabot Oil & Gas Corp (COG.N)
on Friday, claiming the company's natural-gas drilling has
contaminated their water wells with toxic chemicals, caused
sickness and reduced their property values.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania,
accuses the company of violating state environmental laws by
allowing drilling chemicals to escape from gas wells, where
they are used in a technique called hydraulic fracturing.
The case is one of the first to confront the industry over
the technique, which critics claim pollutes aquifers with
chemicals that can cause cancer and other serious illnesses.
Cabot's drilling allowed methane to escape into private
water wells and in two cases caused wellhead explosions due to
a gas build-up, the 45 plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim.
The lawsuit is the culmination of complaints by residents
of the northeastern Pennsylvania community where Cabot has
drilled dozens of gas wells in its efforts to develop the
Marcellus Shale, a massive gas formation that underlies about
two-thirds of Pennsylvania and parts of surrounding states.
"These releases, spills and discharges caused the
plaintiffs and their property to be exposed to such hazardous
gases, chemicals and industrial wastes," said the 12-page
The lawsuit accuses Cabot of negligence and says it has
failed to restore water supplies to residents when it has been
disrupted by gas drilling. It seeks a permanent injunction to
stop the drilling processes that are blamed for the
contamination, as well as unspecified compensatory damages.
Residents of many gas-drilling areas in the United States
say the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing are
contaminating ground water. However, they have been unable to
prove that, in part because energy companies are not required
to disclose the composition of their drilling fluids.
The industry says chemicals cannot escape because they are
injected through layers of steel and concrete thousands of feet
Industry spokesmen say there has never been a documented
case of ground water contamination as a result of hydraulic
Gas deposits such as the Marcellus Shale offer the United
States an opportunity to reduce dependence on overseas oil
imports and reduce carbon emissions, advocates say. But
development could slow if fracturing is shown to be
The Dimock lawsuit says the drilling fluid, and mud used as
a lubricant in drilling, contain carcinogenic chemicals.
Residents say they have suffered neurological,
gastrointestinal and dermatological symptoms from exposure to
tainted water. They also say they have had blood test results
consistent with exposure to heavy metals.
In September, Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental
Protection ordered Cabot to stop hydraulic fracturing at Dimock
after three spills of a drilling lubricant. The ban was lifted
after Cabot put additional environmental safeguards in place.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in its first
tests in response to claims of water contamination from gas
drilling, found earlier this year that some wells in Pavillion,
Wyoming were tainted but reached no conclusion on the source of
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Richard Chang)