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Pennsylvania attorney general charges Cabot Oil & Gas over water well contamination

Highlights

Company said it will respond after reviewing the charges

Charges against Houston-based producer part of two-year investigation

New York — The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General charged producer Cabot Oil & Gas for methane contamination of water supplies in northeastern Pennsylvania.

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The attorney general, in conjunction with the 43rd Statewide Grand Jury, formally charged Cabot with seven counts of discharging industrial wastes, seven counts of other pollution and one count of unlawful conduct under the state's Clean Streams Law. Cabot's fracking activities resulted in the methane pollution of drinking wells in the area around Dimock Township in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, according to a June 15 statement from Attorney General Josh Shapiro's office.

"The Grand Jury presentments prove that Cabot took shortcuts that broke the law, and damaged our environment — harming our water supply and public health," Shapiro said in the statement.

In July 2012 findings, the US Environmental Protection Agency said drinking water in Dimock Township had not been ruined by gas drilling, after the agency completed a sampling of drinking water wells without finding levels of contaminants.

Cabot said it had just became aware of the Pennsylvania charges. "This is the first time we are seeing the charges, and we will respond once we have fully reviewed them," the producer said. "Cabot is a leader in the energy industry and we value community commitment and environmental compliance."

The charges against the Houston-based producer were part of a two-year grand jury investigation into environmental damage by unconventional oil and gas companies.

On June 12, Shapiro charged another shale play developer, Range Resources, with improperly storing and disposing of industrial waste at its Brownlee and Yeager well sites. The company pleaded no contest to negligent oversight of the well sites in Washington County, Pennsylvania, and agreed to pay $50,000 in fines and make $100,000 in charitable contributions.