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Criminal charges levied against Marcellus Shale company

The process of hydrofracking - extracting natural gas using pressurized water, has garnered a legion of supporters as well as critics. Those who support it believe that it is a limitless source of energy that will help the nation break its dependency on foreign sources. Those who oppose it insist that it is a serious environmental hazard. Reports of dumping waste and polluting water have become major issues in Pennsylvania, and yesterday the Attorney General's office took action.

In the first prosecution of its kind, criminal charges were brought against XTO Energy, Inc. The company is a major driller on the Marcellus Shale, an underground pocket of natural gas located in Pennsylvania.

The Attorney General's office alleges that XTO released 50,000 gallons of wastewater from storage tanks in Lycoming County. XTO, which is a subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil Corp., settled a civil lawsuit earlier this year based on the same action. While no admission of liability was expressed in the settlement agreement, the State of Pennsylvania believes that XTO actions were in violation of the state's Clean Streams Law and the Solid Waste Management Act. The company faces five counts under the water law and three counts under the waste management statute.

Meanwhile, XTO believes it has done nothing to generate criminal charges. It insists that it worked with state and federal authorities to clean up the waste, known as "produced water." Also, drilling industry leaders believe that criminal prosecution will have a chilling effect on other companies who may want to drill on the Marcellus Shale.

Source: Philly.com, Shale criminal charges stun drilling industry, September 12, 2013

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Gregory R. Gifford
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