Project: Natural gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing (fracking)
In 2008, Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas ( COG) took an interest in the natural gas within the Marcellus Shale stretching from West Virginia to Western New York. In Dimock, Pa., in particular, it began paying farmers and other landowners from $25 an acre for their land in the early days to nearly $15,000 an acre now. The plan was to drill for natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, which injects millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the earth at high pressure to break up rock formations and release the natural gas inside. In the 1,400-resident town of Dimock, however, that drilling led to the town's water turning brown, residents getting sick, wells catching fire and animals losing their hair. A Cabot truck spilled 800 gallons of diesel fuel there in 2009. Later that year, 8,000 gallons of fracking fluid leaked from pipes into wetlands and a local stream, killing the fish. In 2010, Cabot was prevented from drilling within a nine-mile radius of the town. The Department of Environmental Protection fined Cabot $360,000 and started delivering residents water after local well water was deemed tainted. Cabot stopped delivering water in November, forcing the Environmental Protection Agency's hand. The agency is still testing, but has already found methane, arsenic, barium, antifreeze and manganese in local well water. Eleven homeowners are now suing Cabot, saying their water is still tainted.