$600 Million Fracking Company Sues Tiny Ohio Town for Its Water

Gulfport Energy is suing Barnesville, Ohio.

Fracking the West's wide open spaces. (George Wuerthner)
Photo Credit: George Wuerthner

A massive fracking company, Gulfport Energy, an oil and natural gas exploration and production company worth $600 million, is suing a small Ohio town for its water. Gulfport filed a lawsuit against the village of Barnesville (pop. 5,000) claiming the town violated an agreement to provide water from its reservoir.

Barnesville recently entered another contract with a company named Antero Resources. Gulfport believes the town is violating its previous contract by allowing a new company to use more water than Gulfport is allowed to.

There’s a huge problem with this argument: the town admits it cut off Gulfport’s withdrawals before, but it did so last year when Gulfport was the only company using the water, therefore it seems illogical to blame it on the new contract. The area’s Slope Creek Reservoir supplies water to all the residents of Barnesville as well as thousands of other people in nearby towns.

According to ShalePlay Ohio:

David Castle, a spokesman for a group known as the Concerned Barnesville Area Residents, said frackers had been drawing water from the reservoir until officials told them to stop last fall because the water level dropped so low.

"It's been a tremendous source of concern for the community. We sent a petition signed by 2,500 people to Gulfport asking them to move their drilling pads farther away from the reservoir," Castle said.

The massive drilling boom in Ohio has increased concern about safety issues connected to fracking. 25 families were forced to leave their homes last year after a natural gas leak began at a fracking well. Attempts to stop fracking in the area have proved to be a massive challenge, as the EPA lacks authority and the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that towns can’t ban the practice through law.

Michael Arria covers labor and social movements. Follow him on Twitter: @michaelarria

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