Official Statement on the April 7, 2016 Court Motion:
Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation filed a motion that asks the Court to set aside the jury’s verdict in the nuisance case regarding two residences in Dimock, Pennsylvania. We believe that the jury’s verdict disregards overwhelming scientific and factual evidence that Cabot acted as a prudent operator in conducting its operations. Cabot’s motion asks the Court to set the verdict aside based upon lack of evidence as well as conduct of plaintiff’s counsel calculated to deprive Cabot of a fair trial.
Cabot makes this request because the verdict was based on insufficient evidence and ignored the undisputed fact that the allegations happened prior to the date Cabot even began drilling. Cabot also notes that the plaintiffs’ experts were unqualified and failed to offer evidence that could support the jury’s outcome.
Alternatively, Cabot argues the Court could order a new trial due to the consistent and calculated misconduct of the plaintiffs’ counsel throughout the trial. Plaintiffs’ counsel made improper closing arguments, engaged in outright speculation, referred to materials that had been excluded, and undertook a general pattern of disparaging Cabot engineered to deny a fair trial. Additionally, we also believe the amount of the jury’s verdict grossly exceeds comparable cases and bears no relationship to the evidence.
Official Statement on the March 10, 2016 Jury Verdict:
Cabot is surprised at the jury’s verdict given the lack of evidence provided by plaintiffs in support of their nuisance claim. The verdict disregards overwhelming scientific and factual evidence that Cabot acted as a prudent operator in conducting its operations.
Cabot will be filing motions with the Court to set the verdict aside based upon lack of evidence as well as conduct of plaintiff’s counsel calculated to deprive Cabot of a fair trial.
Facts from the Recent Dimock Trial*
On March 10, 2016 a federal trial concluded with the jury finding for the plaintiffs in the amount of $4.24 million against Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation for a nuisance claim. Cabot disagrees with the jury’s findings and is actively pursuing all possible legal action in the matter.
Regardless of the outcome, there are several important findings to know from this case:
What the case wasn’t about: The plaintiffs’ attorney acknowledged the case had nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing, toxins, or Marcellus gas ending up in drinking water.
– “This is not a case — this is not a case about toxic materials ending up in the water,” she told the jury. “We do not have proof of that. We don’t have proof of that. This is not about fracking fluid appearing in the water. Hydraulic fracturing materials, we don’t have proof of that,” Ms. Leslie Lewis.
– “In this case, and this is a fact, we’re not dealing with Marcellus gas.” – Ms. Lewis.
– The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested the water at one of the residences and declared in July 2011 that the water was fit for human consumption and there were no “toxins” detected.
Dismissed claims: During the trial the court dismissed the claim that Cabot had acted negligently in conducting its operations. In doing so, the judge dismissed allegations of property devaluation in the case as one plaintiff constructed a 26-room, 7,000 square foot home on the property years after the initial claims of decreased water quality. Moreover, the court refused to apply presumptive liability to Cabot or to allow the jury to even consider awarding punitive damages.
– “And, with respect to this property, the only evidence that I have received from the plaintiffs is evidence that indicates a dramatic increase in the value of the property.”
Naturally occurring: During the trial, two life-long residents of Susquehanna County testified they had methane their water decades before any drilling in the area. This testimony was corroborated by historical accounts from the 19th century to present. In fact, one of the witnesses worked on Carter Road and remembers having natural gas in the water decades ago.
It’s all about the timing: The timeline of concerns does not match up with Cabot’s operations. Mr. Ely’s claims of contaminated water began in August 2008 (the exact time varies depending on when he was asked) while Cabot began drilling the gas wells in question until late September 25, 2008. Other plaintiffs claimed their water problems began even earlier in July 2008. Effectively, they are alleging an effect before there was a cause.
*To view this information as a PDF document, click here.
Pre-existing methane in northeastern Pennsylvania
– “Methane in Pennsylvania water wells unrelated to Marcellus shale fracturing” – Oil & Gas Journal: December 5, 2011
U.S. EPA testing of water in Dimock, Pennsylvania in 2012
– Full EPA statement: “EPA Completes Drinking Water Sampling in Dimock, Pa.“
– Cabot response to the EPA statement: “EPA Statement on Dimock Water Testing“
– Full Cabot statement:
“Today, the US Environmental Protection Agency released data from a second, confirmatory set of water samples from its testing in Dimock, PA. EPA also announced that it would cease deliveries to residents currently receiving water from EPA because the agency ‘determined that it is no longer necessary to provide residents with alternative water.’ As with the three previous sets of water samples compiled by EPA at private drinking water wells in Dimock, PA, the data released today once again confirms the EPA’s and DEP’s findings that levels of contaminants found do not possess a threat to human health and the environment.
These findings are consistent with thousands of pages of water quality data previously accumulated by state and local authorities and by Cabot Oil & Gas. As with the other findings, EPA did not indicate that those contaminants that were detected bore any relationship to oil and gas development in the Dimock area. Cabot’s operations in Dimock have led to significant economic growth in the area, marked by a collaborative relationship with the local community.
Cabot will continue to cooperate with federal, state and local officials in using the best and most accurate science to address public concerns.”