The verdict won’t bring back healthy well water to the Dimock, Pennsylvania families; but it does send a hopeful message to others whose lives have been ruined by the country’s runaway fracking train. It is believed to be the second fracking verdict won by plaintiffs, the first being fracking verdict for a Texas family on Earth Day in 2014.
CommonDreams.org reported that a 10-person jury on Thursday, March 10, 2016, awarded the verdict to the two families who had refused to settle with the Houston-based fracker who wrecked their water in the village of Dimock.
The U.S. District Court in Scranton hosted the two-week trial, where a federal jury found that Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. had polluted the families’ well water. Cabot, one of the largest natural gas drillers in Pennsylvania, had settled several other cases (for undisclosed sums, of course) with local residents in 2012.
Neighbors Scott Ely, his wife, Monica Marta-Ely, and Ray and Victoria Hubert had refused to settle. They were the only remaining plaintiffs in a lawsuit that began with more than 40 plaintiffs in 2009.
News outlets reported the Elys were awarded $2.6 million, their three children $50,000 each. The Huberts were awarded $1.4 million, another family member $50,000.
Gasland Director praises Verdict
Anti-fracking citizens, including Gasland documentary filmmaker Josh Fox, were rightfully pleased with the verdict. Mr. Fox had featured Dimock’s brown, smelly, flammable water in Gasland. He told Greenwire he was “overjoyed”:
“People say this was like David and Goliath,” Mr. Fox said. “Well, we just got a reminder of how that story ends.”
Mr. Fox tweeted:
AMAZING! JUSTICE IS DONE! CABOT GAS GOES DOWN TO ONE FAMILY THAT REFUSED TO QUIT! PRECEDENT! HUGE FRACKING NEWS!
— Josh Fox (@joshfoxfilm) March 10, 2016
Fracking Fight continues, wells ruined forever
The problem with fracking, however, is much bigger than two families or one small town, said anti-fracking biologist Sandra Steingraber, science advisor for Americans Against Fracking. She told EcoWatch:
“$4.2 million will not bring back drinkable well water to the long-suffering families of Dimock, Pennsylvania. No amount of money can do that. (Once) groundwater is polluted, it’s polluted forevermore. But what this important jury decision does do is strip away the mirage of omnipotence that Cabot and other gas companies operate behind. Fracking poisons water. That’s what the science shows. The frackers will be held responsible. That’s what this court decision shows.”
Cabot will appeal (shocker)
Cabot Oil & Gas immediately said it would appeal the ruling. The Houston-based fracker accused the jury of ignoring “overwhelming scientific and factual evidence that Cabot acted as a prudent operator in conducting its operations.”
Cabot’s 130 Violations
EcoWatch reported, however, on an NPR State Impact report prior to the trial. It revealed Cabot Oil & Gas had committed more than 130 drilling violations at its Dimock wells; yet Cabot insisted methane migration in Dimock’s water is naturally occurring. The company is currently banned from drilling in a 9-mile area of Dimock but is trying to lift the ban. (Of course they are. Fracking is the gift that never stops giving.)