Maryland AG Threatens to Sue Company Responsible for Pennsylvania Fracking Spill
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The Maryland Attorney General's office is going after a giant player in the Marcellus Shale fracking industry, saying it will sue Chesapeake Energy for potential ground and water contamination resulting from its Pennsylvania fracking operations.
In an intent to sue letter announced Monday, Attorney General Douglas Glasner said the legal action was necessary following the April 19 well blow out in Bradford County, PA, which spilled thousands of gallons of fracking fluids across farm lands and into the Towanda Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River which leads into the Chesapeake Bay.
"Companies cannot expose citizens to dangerous chemicals that pose serious health risks to the environment and to public health," said Gansler. "We are using all resources available to hold Chesapeake Energy accountable for its actions."
The well blow out forced the evacuation of seven families in the Leroy Township area. Chesapeake had to fly in special response teams from Texas to deal with the spill, which took nearly two days to stabilize and five days to permanently seal.
Chesapeake company officials called the environmental effects of the blow out "limited."
"Environmental testing conducted during the incident and since has shown limited and very localized environmental impact with no adverse affects on aquatic life in Towanda Creek. " said Brian Grove, Senior Director of Corporate Development, in a prepared statement. "The Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay watershed face many environmental threats; this event is not one of them."
The company declined to elaborate on what caused the wellhead failure. Following the blow out, the company temporarily halted fracking or what it calls "completion operations" in the Marcellus Shale region pending inspection of all wellheads.
The Maryland AG office after consultations with the governor's office, decided to make the bold move and prepare a lawsuit suit because of serious concerns about the composition of fracking fluid and its potential effects.
Our sole concern is "The impact it's going to have on Maryland waters," said Raquel Guillory, a spokesperson for Glasner's office. "It's pretty much a mystery as to what is contained in these fluids. We want to know exactly what is in them," she said. Chesapeake has 90 days to respond.
When asked whether they would divulge the contents of the fracking fluids to the Maryland AG, a spokesman from Chesapeake, Rory Sweeney, could not provide an answer.
Companies have claimed that their fracking brew should remain secret because of proprietary reasons. Reports by environmentalists, congressional committees and news organizations have determined that at least 29 toxic and carcinogenic chemicals are routinely found in fracking fluids and that gas companies have injected millions of gallons of chemically laced brew into the ground all across the country.
For anti fracking activists in Bradford County, the move by the Maryland AG begs the question, where are the state environmental watchdogs in Pennsylvania?
Mark Smith, a Bradford County Commissioner, who represents the region in Pennsylvania most heavily impacted by gas drilling, wrote a letter to Governor Tom Corbett following the Leroy Township well blowout, suggesting that the state DEP was too lax in its permit process.
"DEP officials are quoted in the media as saying they spend as little as 35 minutes to approve each gas well permit. This is an appalling statistic considering the significant operations and impact of a natural gas drilling site and even more appalling considering that there have been nearly 2,000 gas wells permitted in Bradford County," Smith wrote.
"Well water contamination in Bradford County is a real and serious issue that is affecting residents' quality of life, livelihoods, families, and property values. Water buffalos, temporary water storage tanks, now lay claim to peoples' front yards as a stark reminder of the extreme negative impact that natural gas development is having on our local communities.