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Pennsylvania Fracking: Water Contamination Lawsuit Filed, Governor to Address Question of Opposition Monitoring

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There have been some interesting developments surrounding the gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania. One involves a lawsuit, and the other regarding the state’s monitoring of people opposed to gas drilling in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale.

The lawsuit, filed by 13 Susquehanna County families, claims plaintiffs well water have been contaminated by a Lenox Township hydraulic fracturing operation being undertaken by Southwest Energy Production Company. The lawsuit, filed in Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania Civil Division (Civil Action No: 2010-1882CP), accuses the Houston, Texas based firm, as well as its parent, Southwest Energy Company, of negligence.

According to the complaint, Southwest Energy Production Company is the owner and operator of the Price #1 Well in Lenox Township where the families live and reside. It has been engaged in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations there since 2008. The families allege that negligence on the part Southwest Energy Production has allowed pollutants, including fracking fluid, to be discharged into the ground or into the waters nearby. The lawsuit further alleges that the families, including minor children, have been and continue to be exposed to hazardous chemicals, including barium, manganese and strontium.

At least one of the plaintiffs is alleged to have become physically ill, and exhibits neurological symptoms consistent with toxic exposure to heavy metals. The others live in constant fear of future physical illness, particularly with respect to the health of their minor children and grandchildren, according to the lawsuit.

In the other matter, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that Gov. Ed Rendell will hold a news conference this evening concerning media reports that the state Office of Homeland Security has been keeping tabs on people who attended various public meetings to express their opposition to fracking. The Philadelphia City Paper and the Harrisburg Patriot-News obtained leaked information about the monitoring efforts by state Homeland Security officials, which were supposedly done in the interest of public safety, the Post-Gazette said. The events monitored inclde a screening of the film “Gasland” in Philadelphia, as well as a Pittsburgh council meeting about gas drilling.

The state’s Homeland Security director justified the monitoring by pointing to some instances of vandalism that targeted various gas drilling operations around the state. He also told the Patriot-News that the tracking information was also sent to Marcellus gas “stakeholders,” the Post-Gazette said.

Jan Jarrett of the environmental group Penn Future told the Post-Gazette that the monitoring was “kind of creepy.”

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