Judge Denies Request to Restart Water Deliveries in Dimock PA

request deniedLast Friday, Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board Judge Bernard Labuskes, Jr. denied an appeal from 11 families in the Carter Road area of Dimock Township, PA who were asking that water shipments from Cabot Oil & Gas be restored. The 11 families, from an original group of 19 families, decided to not accept a remediation solution ordered by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that directed Cabot to pay the families up to twice the value of their homes and to install filtration systems that would remove all methane from their water supplies.

Because of their ongoing refusal to accept the remediation solution offered, preferring instead to pursue litigation with Cabot, the DEP finally told Cabot they could end water deliveries to those families as of Nov. 30—deliveries that have been ongoing for more than two years.

Under the order, the families can have their water deliveries resume if they "at least try" a whole-house gas-mitigation system paid for and installed by Cabot Oil & Gas.

[Judge Labuskes] also reiterated the terms of a previous settlement agreement that called for Cabot to pay the families between $50,000 and $400,000 each "with no strings attached and no questions asked."

Cabot, in a statement, said it was "pleased" with the decision and "committed to a long-term solution."

According to landowner Craig Sautner, the order only returns the families to square one in their fight with the gas company and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental [Protection].

Part of the families’ appeal was based on claims that other toxics besides methane are contaminating their water and won’t be removed by a gas-mitigation system.

"You put that gas separator in your house and your water’s coming out like an orange color or a chocolate color — the gas separator’s not going to take that out," he said. "Are you supposed to use that water in your house?"

Sautner said he’s afraid that taking the payments he and others have been offered would let Cabot "off the hook" and potentially lead to the families being responsible once the money runs out.

Although his family’s water tank was empty as of Monday evening, Sautner wasn’t ready to accept the prescribed offer.*

*Ithaca Journal (Dec 14, 2011) – Pa. judge rejects Dimock plea