SCRANTON – Attorney Todd J. O’Malley on Monday filed what he called the first in a series of lawsuits against natural gas drilling companies on behalf of families he said have been harmed by negligent drilling activities.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has directed Chesapeake Energy Corp. to supply by today information about the discharge of drilling fluids from a natural gas well last week in Leroy Township, Bradford County.
While the state Department of Environmental Protection is the lead agency in responding to the incident, EPA staff is requesting information on hydraulic fracturing fluids used in the drilling process at the well; water, land and air affected by the release; and any private well, surface water and soil sampling data collected in the area before and after the April 19 incident.
The “information request,” authorized under three federal statutes, was sent to Chesapeake Energy officials on Friday, according to an EPA press release.
“We want a complete accounting of operations at the site to determine our next steps in this incident and to help prevent future releases of this kind,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin.
EPA directed that the company provide additional information by May 9 on:
• Details of the incident, including timelines, sources of discharge and the extent of environmental impact
• Substances placed into or returned to the surface from the wells at the site
• Whether radiological compounds are or were present in the fluids or sediment generated as part of the well development
• Results of any subsequent sampling data
• Effects on any drinking water supplies
• All permits or water quality standards that may have been violated
• Any other leaks, spills or releases that have occurred at wells on the drilling site
• The history of drilling operations at the well site
• Each chemical brought to the site, including type and quantities and storage, management and handling practices
• Any temporary wastewater storage impoundments on the site
• Processing of wastewater from wells at the site
In an e-mailed statement, Chesapeake spokesman Brian Grove said Chesapeake well-control specialists completed efforts to achieve permanent well control of the Atgas 2H well at 6:05 p.m. on Monday by replacing the damaged wellhead with a fully competent wellhead.
“Tests thus far indicate only minimal environmental impact as a result of this incident. Additional testing will be done in conjunction with DEP to fully assess and remediate any environmental impacts. Chesapeake will continue to work with the appropriate regulatory agencies to investigate and determine the cause of the equipment failure,” Grove said.
He added that Chesapeake “greatly appreciates the professional and responsive assistance of federal, state and local agencies that participated in these efforts, specifically the efforts of local responders, including Bradford County Emergency Management Agency, the Western Alliance EMS and the Canton Fire Department.”
Representing three Bradford County families, O’Malley, of O’Malley & Langan in Scranton, and New York attorney William Friedlander, filed a petition in U.S. District Court seeking to force Chesapeake Energy Corp. into arbitration, claiming the company contaminated their water, devalued their land and caused many other hardships.
Chesapeake Appalachia LLC and Nomac Drilling LLC are also named as respondents.
The petition states that Wyalusing residents Mike and Jonna Phillips, Scott and Cassie Spencer and Jared and Heather McMicken, all living in homes along Paradise Road, entered into 10-year oil and gas leases with Chesapeake in 2007 or 2008.
The petition also states that the families “suffered water and property contamination caused by the negligent and grossly negligent oil and gas drilling activities” of the companies, which “caused the release, spill, discharge, and emission of combustible gases, hazardous chemicals, and industrial wastes from their oil and gas drilling facilities.”