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

Students are rejecting a proposed tuition hike that would raise their costs by more than $3,300 over the next five years.

Ferguson, Mo., Darren Wilson, Michael Brown, protest

On August 9, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot a black teenager named Mike Brown. Since then, the city has been protesting.

pipeline protests, Kinder Morgan, tar sands, tar sands pipeline, Burnaby, #BurnabyMountain

Standing on the side of the protesters, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan vowed to wage war against fossil fuel giant Kinder Morgan.

We are educating each other, we are learning from each other, we are supporting each other in this cavernous journey for justice and the “hope” that our system of laws will not continue to betray us.

Raleigh resident Bibi Bowman says the fact that a police officer called her and told her to take down a Facebook post is an invasion of her privacy and a thinly-veiled attempt to intimidate her into silence.

A new pamphlet, released today, is an attempt to answer this question – and the case we make is, yes, it not only makes sense to think of planetary control in these terms, but it is essential.

Posted 5 days 23 hours ago

They meet behind closed doors, at five-star hotels, away from the prying eyes of the public.

Posted 5 days 27 min ago

This was the biggest scandal to ever hit the land recordation system in this country, and those who were responsible should be held accountable.

Posted 3 days 3 min ago

Consumer watchdog groups, payday borrowers and victims of payday theft need to come together to end the practice that creates a never-ending cycle of debt.

Posted 5 days 23 hours ago

Over 300,000 Internet users contributed to our crowdsourced vision for free expression online in the 21st century. What matters most to the Internet community? Watch this animated video to find out.

Posted 3 days 19 min ago

Consumer watchdog groups, payday borrowers and victims of payday theft need to come together to end the practice that creates a never-ending cycle of debt.

With a $150 million World Bank loan, the Ugandan government plans to construct roads to service oil companies, provide scholarships for oil workers and fund an oil institute. But what about helping its own people?

The plan submitted by the city's emergency manager protects banks, gives away public resources, and has no method to revitalize the city.

Over 300,000 Internet users contributed to our crowdsourced vision for free expression online in the 21st century. What matters most to the Internet community? Watch this animated video to find out.

The Nordic nation of 5.6 million has been at the forefront of wind power innovation since the 1890s, when one of its leading scientists, Poul la Cour, began testing turbines.

Sign Up