PHILADELPHIA Oct 21 Pennsylvania has fined
Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (COG.N) for three spills of a fluid used
in natural gas drilling, amid concern about groundwater
contamination, state regulators said on Thursday.
Cabot spilled about 8,000 gallons of LGC-35, a lubricant,
in the rural community of Dimock, Susquehanna County, on Sept.
16 and 22. Natural gas drillers use the chemical in a technique
called hydraulic fracturing to obtain gas trapped in rock
The state's Department of Environmental Protection fined
Cabot $56,650 and ordered the company to stop fracturing until
it cleaned the spills and submitted an updated pollution
control plan. The ban was lifted on Oct. 16.
Anti-drilling activists criticized the fine as too small.
Some residents of Pennsylvania and other U.S. gas-drilling
areas oppose hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", claiming
chemicals used in the process contaminate ground water, causing
sickness and rashes, and forcing users to drink bottled water.
Cabot spokesman Ken Komoroski said the company has paid the
fine and met the DEP's environmental requirements, taking
measures to prevent spills including installing high-pressure
pipe connectors and storing drilling gel closer to wells.
The industry has declined to specify the chemicals it uses
in fracking fluids, saying the information is proprietary.
Drillers say the chemicals cannot get into drinking water
because they are injected through layers of steel and concrete
thousands of feet below the aquifers.
"We expect that Cabot will do a better job in the future of
overseeing its contractors now that the company has a improved
preparedness, prevention and contingency plan in place," said
Robert Yowell, the Pennsylvania DEP's north central regional
Barbara Arrindell of the Pennsylvania anti-drilling group
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability blasted the fine as "a
joke" too small to remedy pollution.
"This environment is violated," she said. "It's not going
to get cleaned up because Cabot has to pay the DEP a few
Arrindell accused the DEP of being in "partnership" with
the gas industry, which is developing the massive Marcellus
Shale gas formation beneath Pennsylvania and parts of
"There's a lack of regulation and a lack of enforcement,"
A boom in shale natural gas drilling has raised hopes the
United States will be able to rely on the cleaner-burning fuel
to meet future energy needs, but concerns about water quality
could slow drilling operations.
Komoroski said Cabot is drilling 40 to 60 new Marcellus
wells in Susquehanna County this year and plans another 60 in
2010, adding to the 20 it had at the start of 2009.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted its
first tests this year in response to concern about water
quality and gas drilling, and found contamination in some
private water wells in a Wyoming gas field. It did not identify
the source of the contamination, and is continuing to test.
The U.S. Congress is considering a bill that would require
energy companies to disclose their fracking chemicals.
(Reporting by Jon Hurdle; Editing by David Gregorio)