Fracking criminal charges are fought by Exxon

July 15, 2014 0 By Angie Bergenson
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Fracking Law

An Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary is being blamed for a wastewater spill in Pennsylvania.

According to Pennsylvania prosecutors, XTO Energy Inc., Exxon’s subsidiary, is legally responsible for a large fracking wastewater leak in north-central Pennsylvania that occurred back in 2010, but Exxon is fighting these criminal charges related to the wastewater spill, claiming that the state’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, has only singled out the massive corporation in an attempt to stop hydraulic fracturing, a practice to which the attorney general is opposed.

This case is the first in which a public company drilling in the state’s Marcellus Shale has been criminally charged.

In spite of Exxon’s claim of being singled out, Carolyn E. Myers, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said that “No single industry has been targeted.” She explained that the state has convicted over 800 companies and individuals of environmental crimes.

The case concerns 57,000 gallons of wastewater that had been used in fracking wells. This contaminated water seeped into a tributary of the Susquehanna River after leaking from storage tanks on an XTO site. The water was stored so it could be treated and then reused for hydraulic fracturing operations in the future.

XTO says it should not be held responsible for the fracking wastewater spill.

XTO claims that, at the time, it turned its site over to contractors, so the spill was not the company’s fault and, therefore, it cannot be held responsible for it. Furthermore, the company stated that Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection biologists studied the tributary and found that the spill had no impact on it.

The attorney general’s office says that XTO failed to secure the storage tanks and install a system to contain spills as a necessary precaution. Prosecutors say that cleanup resulted in the excavation of over 3,000 tons of contaminated soil and also added that evidence exists that indicates the spill was not the first instance of pollution from the site.

XTO has requested for the judge to order prosecutors to hand over all documents in relation to the decision to charge the company and to hold a hearing regarding the destruction of evidence, as XTO is accusing the prosecution for destroying the handwritten notes of an investigator.

In addition to the criminal charges related to fracking, in July 2013, XTO agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty and to take necessary measures to prevent spills to settle civil allegations that the company was in breach of the federal Clean Water Act. In September of the same year, eight criminal misdemeanor charges were filed against XTO by Pennsylvania prosecutors and each charge carries a daily maximum fine of $25,000.