Judge: Exxon Faces Criminal Charges For 50,000 Gallon Frack Waste Spill

Search form

Judge: Exxon Faces Criminal Charges For 50,000 Gallon Frack Waste Spill

Judge: Exxon Faces Criminal Charges For 50,000 Gallon Frack Waste Spill
Mon, 1/6/2014 - by Emily Atkin
This article originally appeared on Think Progress

Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary XTO Energy will have to face criminal charges for allegedly dumping tens of thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracturing waste at a Marcellus Shale drilling site in 2010, according to a Pennsylvania judge’s ruling on January 2.

Following a preliminary hearing, Magisterial District Judge James G. Carn decided that all eight charges against Exxon — including violations of both the state Clean Streams Law and the Solid Waste Management Act — will be “held for court,” meaning there is enough evidence to take the fossil fuel giant to trial over felony offenses.

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General filed criminal charges back in September, claiming Exxon had removed a plug from a wastewater tank, leading to 57,000 gallons of contaminated water spilling into the soil. The Exxon subsidiary had contested the criminal charges, claiming there was “no lasting environmental impact,” and that the charges could “discourage good environmental practices” from guilty companies.

“The action tells oil and gas operators that setting up infrastructure to recycle produced water exposes them to the risk of significant legal and financial penalties should a small release occur,” Exxon said at the time.

Hydraulic fracturing is a method of extracting fossil fuels that generally increases the flow of oil or gas from a well. It is done by injecting high-pressure water and chemicals miles deep into the ground into subsurface rock, effectively “fracturing” the rock and allowing more spaces for oil and gas to come through. The tactic is generally paired with horizontal drilling.

The high-pressure water and chemical injections generally result in a good amount of wastewater, which is what Exxon is charged with illegally dumping. The specific chemical makeup of that wastewater is a large part of why the practice is so controversial, as public disclosure of what exactly is used in the water is largely self-regulated by the fracking companies.

Thanks to laws pushed by corporate front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), sponsored by ExxonMobil, states have allowed minimum disclosure of the chemicals used in the fluid. Though Pennsylvania does now require disclosure to regulators, it has a “[gag rule](gag rule)” banning doctors from talking about the health risks.

The most recent study of health risks related to fracking was released in mid-December by the journal Endocrinology, which found the presence of hormone-disrupting chemicals in surface water and groundwater samples in Garfield County, Colorado — one county at the center of the U.S. fracking boom. The chemicals have been linked to infertility, birth defects, and cancer.

Additionally, a July study from the Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences of USA found that the closer residents live to wells used in fracking, the more likely drinking water is contaminated, with 115 of 141 wells found to contain methane.

Originally published by Think Progress

Article Tabs

The new 40-page report published by Oxfam International also said the global fossil fuel sector now receives $1.9 trillion in subsidies each year.

Edward Snowden

Snowden told the audience he engaged in civil disobedience because he believes the democratic system of government is not able to work when people don’t know what their government is doing.

Large corporations are the winners and taxpayers are the losers when transparency, accountability and the public interest are sold out to for-profit firms.

The city's social justice roots are centuries old – and today Seattle is also home to more than 70 social justice organizations and more than a dozen progressive film festivals.

Coinciding with the National Day Against Police Brutality and Mass Incarceration, people in Santa Rosa, Calif., will hold a vigil and community potluck Wednesday to commemorate the teen's tragic death.

“We wanted to take action to dramatize the betrayal of the American people and show that we will resist and attempt to disrupt or at least expose pro-corruption politicians' ability to raise big money.”

Posted 6 days 9 hours ago

Drug and device makers paid doctors $380 million in speaking and consulting fees over a five-month period last year – and saw a healthy return on their investment.

Posted 5 days 8 hours ago

Florida has the highest foreclosure rate in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014, and also has a "foreclosure king" who is now disbarred for his failure to oversee employees accused of carrying out wrongful foreclosures.

Posted 2 days 9 hours ago

As of September 19, 181 institutions and local governments and 656 individuals representing over $50 billion in assets have pledged to divest from fossil fuels.

Posted 5 days 8 hours ago

So little of our national wealth is going to feed people or provide jobs and instead, the richest Americans vastly increased their wealth this past year. But what vaulted these individuals to the top?

Posted 6 days 9 hours ago

Coinciding with the National Day Against Police Brutality and Mass Incarceration, people in Santa Rosa, Calif., will hold a vigil and community potluck Wednesday to commemorate the teen's tragic death.

Video footage showing six plainclothes officers pummeling a man in a dark corner behind a building has galvanized the city where thousands continue to protest despite the harsh police response.

Punishing local cuts are leaving communities up in arms as the removal of vital school road patrol service – known as the lollipop ladies – could go into effect.

The city's social justice roots are centuries old – and today Seattle is also home to more than 70 social justice organizations and more than a dozen progressive film festivals.

The new 40-page report published by Oxfam International also said the global fossil fuel sector now receives $1.9 trillion in subsidies each year.

Sign Up