The oil and gas industry has been a part of our state’s history for over 150 years, with the first oil wells in the world located right here in Pennsylvania. The natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia has exploded since the mid-2000s which has raised a concern about contaminated water, higher levels of air pollution, and property damage from soiled groundwater. Over the years the oil and gas industry has paid out millions to residents affected by hazardous drilling operations, but in some cases the tables have turned, with lawsuits by the oil and gas industry now against those who publicized the industry’s carelessness.
In 2010, Cabot Oil and Gas was fined $4.6 million after it was found that their drilling operations contaminated the groundwater in Dimock, Pennsylvania, resulting in unsafe drinking water. Most of the families who sued Cabot Oil and Gas reached settlements with the drilling giant and these settlements are believed to contain Non-disclosure Agreements (NDAs), prohibiting residents to speak ill of, or talk to the press about the events that transpired because of drilling activities by Cabot Oil and Gas. Claiming the NDA was violated, Cabot Oil & Gas sued a Pennsylvania landowner for $5 million who spoke out about the impacts of the company’s drilling in his area and commented on how traffic has been affected in his area, the air quality, the drinking water, his property value, and most importantly, his health. Cabot Oil and Gas claims in their lawsuit that their settlement in 2012 prohibits the landowner from not only discussing harm he believes was caused by the company, but also any action the company had taken after the settlement.
An NDA is also known as a confidentiality agreement that protects confidential information from being disclosed to a third party. Violating an NDA can result in legal action against the violator; however, some have argued that an NDA should not be enforced in instances where not disclosing information could be a public health risk. As in the case of the small town in Pennsylvania, not making the public aware about the state of their drinking water could have resulted in thousands of injured and sick individuals.
With Marcellus shale drilling for natural gas continually growing, the risk for exposure to toxic substances has also increased. Water injected during hyrdofracking can potentially collect harmful materials, and wastewater may contain corrosive salts, benzene, and even radium. If you have been injured by harmful chemical exposures, contaminated water, burns, or other natural gas drilling accidents, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us for a free, no obligation legal consultation to see if we can help you receive compensation for your injury or loss.
Sharon Kelly, “Oil and Gas Industry’s 2017 Suing Spree Could Set Speech-Chilling Presedents, Desomg (January 2, 2018). [Link]