Two families in northern Pennsylvania won a jury verdict against a local oil and gas company, after they alleged contamination of their groundwater as a result of fracking by the company. Scott and Monica Ely, and their neighbors, Ray and Victoria Hubert, were originally among 44 plaintiffs in legal action filed against Cabot Oil & Gas in 2009. The lawsuit contended that Cabot’s use of fracking to obtain oil and gas had rendered the groundwater in Dimock Township, northwest of Scranton, unfit for human consumption.
In fracking, a recently developed process in oil and gas exploration, oil companies drill deep into the earth and then inject a mixture of water, sand and chemical to force oil and gas to the surface. Though the procedure has only been in use for about a decade, lawsuits have been filed around the country, all claiming some loss. A Texas jury returned a $3 million verdict in 2014 under similar circumstances and the Oklahoma courts are currently considering claims that the controversial process has caused a substantial increase in earthquake activity in the state.
The jury in the Pennsylvania case awarded $2.75 million to the Elys and $1.45 million to the Huberts. Both families had refused to join a proposed settlement offer by Cabot. In pre-trial reports, it was learned that Cabot had been tagged with more than 130 violations at the Dimock drilling site, causing the contamination of approximately 20 drinking wells. The company is now legally prohibited from drilling in or around Dimock Township.
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