Two couples were awarded nearly $4.25 million on March 10 after a federal jury found one of the largest natural gas drillers in Pennsylvania polluted their well water.
The verdict came at the end of a bitter and long-running federal suit pitting homeowners in the village of Dimock, Pennsylvania, against Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.
The company said it will appeal, accusing the jury of ignoring “overwhelming scientific and factual evidence that Cabot acted as a prudent operator in conducting its operations.”
Dimock was the scene of the most highly publicized case of methane contamination to emerge from the early days of Pennsylvania’s natural-gas drilling boom. State regulators blamed faulty gas wells drilled by Cabot for leaking combustible methane into Dimock’s groundwater. Cabot claimed the methane was naturally occurring.
The rural community became a battleground in environmental activists’ fight against fracking, and its plight was featured in the Emmy-winning 2010 documentary “Gasland.”
Residents first reported problems with their wells in 2008. Homeowners, all of whom had leased their land to Cabot, said the water made them sick with symptoms that included vomiting, dizziness and skin rashes. Dozens of plaintiffs settled with Cabot in 2012, but two homeowners opted to take their claims to trial.
Stephen Dillard, one of Cabot’s attorneys, argued that the problems in water wells predated Cabot’s drilling.
A state investigation found that Cabot had allowed gas to escape into the region’s groundwater supplies, contaminating at least 18 residential water wells.
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