In Rare Move, Pennsylvania Prosecutes Exxon Subsidiary for Fracking Pollution
Unlike the federal government, which has taken a softer approach with fracking polluters, the state of Pennsylvania is cracking down on at least one company accused of releasing wastewater from natural gas drilling.
State Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced this week that her office will prosecute XTO Energy Inc. for discharging more than 50,000 gallons of toxic wastewater from storage tanks at a gas-well site in Lycoming County. The pollutants included strontium, chloride, bromide and barium.
The subsidiary of ExxonMobil had already settled federal civil charges over the incident by agreeing to pay a $100,000 fine and create a plan to improve wastewater-management practices.
But Kane decided to go a step further and file eight criminal charges against XTO for violating two state statutes (the Clean Streams Law and the Solid Waste Management Act).
If convicted, the company faces a fine of $25,000 a day per violation. The leak went on for about 65 days, beginning on November 10, 2010. If Exxon ended up having to pay the full amount for eight violations, it would have to dole out approximately $13 million…less than the annual compensation for XTO CEO Keith A. Hutton.
Environmentalists praised Kane’s move while noting the soft treatment that industry polluters have received from state regulators.
Company officials responded publicly by pointing out that they had cooperated with federal and state authorities to clean up the spill and remove 3,000 tons of contaminated soil from the site.
“Criminal charges are unwarranted and legally baseless because neither XTO nor any of its employees intentionally, recklessly, or negligently discharged produced water on the site,” XTO said in a statement. Kane’s office countered that it is not necessary to prove intent.
To Learn More:
Shale Criminal Charges Stun Drilling Industry (by Andrew Maykuth, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Attorney General Files Criminal Charges Against Marcellus Gas Drilling Company (by Donald Gilliland, Harrisburg Patriot-News)
Obama Administration Sues Exxon for Polluting Pennsylvania Drinking Water with Toxic Fracking Waste (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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