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Fracking Protest Set For This Week

Nov 2, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

People will gather in cities across the country tomorow to protest the gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking protests are planned for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dallas, Texas, Little Rock, Arkansas and other cities. The first World Protest Against Shale Gas Fracking has been planned as a global event, with rallies to occur as far away as New Zealand.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below the surface. Thanks to the 2005 Energy Act, hydraulic fracturing is exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. As a result, drillers are not required to disclose the chemicals that make up fracking fluids. Some studies have found that fracking fluids contain toxic chemicals, including benzene glycol-ethers, toluene, 2-(2-methoxyethoxy) ethanol, and nonylphenols. Fracking operations have been linked to several instances of ground water contamination in Pennsylvania, Wyoming and other states. 

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the World Protest Against Shale Gas Fracking will coincide with the DUG East gas drilling industry conference. The Pittsburgh rally begins at 1 p.m., outside of the David Lawrence Convention Center. Speakers will include people who are living with Marcellus drilling near their homes, schools and parks, as well as farmers, city residents, musicians, scientists and more.

As the rally begins, the DUG Conference’s Key Note speaker, Karl Rove, will be addressing conference attendees inside the Convention Center.

Pennsylvania has become ground zero in the battle against fracking, and the industry has been pushing to drill in the city of Pittsburgh. Several members of the Pittsburgh City Council have introduced an ordinance to ban fracking in the city limits, and the measure is slated to be debated on November 4, one day after the World Protest Against Shale Gas Fracking.

Pennsylvania has been the site of several high profile cases of water contamination believed to be the result of fracking. In September, for example, Pennsylvania environmental officials ordered Chesapeake Energy Corp. to inspect the well casings of 171 natural-gas wells in the state after methane was found to be leaking from six wells in Bradford County.

Just last week, a Bradford County woman filed suit against Chesapeake over her contaminated well. According to the lawsuit, the contamination has caused her to suffer a variety of problems, including contact dermatitis, gastro-intestinal discomfort, barium poisoning, pain, numbness to her face and hands, deformities of the bones of her hands, and headache, among other injuries. She continues to live in fear of future physical illness, the complaint alleges.

The plaintiff in that lawsuit is being represented by the national law firm of Parker Waichman LLP; the Law Offices of Michael Gleeson, based in Archbald, Pennsylvania; Neblett, Beard and Arsenault of Alexandria, Louisiana; and Becnel Law Firm of Reserve, Louisiana. The same group of attorneys filed another Pennsylvania lawsuit in September on behalf of a group of families in Lenox Township, located in Susquehanna County. The suit, which names Houston, Texas-based Southwest Energy Production Company as a defendant, also alleges that fracking contaminated the families’ water wells.

Perhaps the most well-known incident of fracking-related water problems in Pennsylvania occurred in the Susquehanna County town of Dimock. There, problems with the cement casing on 20 wells drilled by Cabot Oil & Gas have caused contamination of local water wells, driving down property values and causing sickness. Levels of methane in some Dimock water wells are so high that homeowners are able to set water aflame as it comes out of their taps.

In October 2009, state regulators finally acknowledged that a major contamination of the aquifer had occurred. In addition to methane, dangerously high levels of iron and aluminum were found in some wells. Fifteen Dimock residents whose wells were contaminated are now suing Cabot.

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