Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s decision to prosecute a major natural-gas driller in the Marcellus Shale region for a 2010 wastewater spill has sent shock waves through the industry, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Environmentalists hailed the prosecution of the Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary as a departure from the soft treatment they say the industry has received from Pennsylvania regulators.
Kane announced charges against XTO Energy Inc. for discharging more than 50,000 gallons of toxic wastewater from storage tanks at a gas-well site in Lycoming County. XTO in July settled federal civil charges over the incident by agreeing to pay a $100,000 fine and deploy a plan to improve wastewater-management practices. The consent decree included no admissions of liability. The Fort Worth, Texas, drilling company, which Exxon acquired in 2010, said it had worked cooperatively with federal and state authorities to clean up the spilled waste, known as “produced water.” XTO excavated and removed 3,000 tons of contaminated soil from the site. “Criminal charges are unwarranted and legally baseless because neither XTO nor any of its employees intentionally, recklessly, or negligently discharged produced water on the site,” XTO said.