A landowner in Marshall County, West Virginia had previously sued Chesapeake Energy, claiming Chesapeake’s nearby drilling and fracking operations (from 2009/2010) caused methane to migrate and contaminate his water well. Chesapeake sampled the well and found the kind of methane in the well (the “fingerprint” for the methane) does not match the methane from their drilled natural gas well.
The story then gets complicated. It seems that CNX Gas, a division of CONSOL Energy, had previously drilled a number of shallow natural gas wells in the area, and that Columbia Gas, a division of NiSource, has an underground natural gas storage field adjacent to the landowner’s property. Oy vey. There’s no shortage of possibilities for how the methane may have gotten into his well, and so now everyone is now getting sued…
Chesapeake Energy attorneys deny the company’s drilling and fracking contaminated Jeremiah Magers’ drinking water well with methane, so he is now suing CNX Gas Corp. and Columbia Gas Transmission for the problem.
Since 2009, Magers has been dealing with issues at his residence near Cameron that he believes are directly related to drilling and fracking operations. In 2010, he said he heard heavy natural gas gurgles and detected a mist coming from his water well, so he called 911. The mist was such that Magers said he had to “burn off” some of the gas to help prevent an explosion.
Magers previously reported his water well became contaminated with methane – and that natural gas began bubbling in Fish Creek – shortly after Chesapeake began fracking at a production site roughly 1,200 feet from Magers’ water tank. His complaint states, “Sufficient gas was present that the plaintiffs could ignite both the water and Fish Creek.”
Magers originally filed suit against Chesapeake in Marshall County Circuit Court in February, but the case was later shifted to U.S. District Court in Wheeling. Magers’ attorney, Joseph Canestraro, alleges Chesapeake’s failure to provide a fresh water source demonstrates “willful, wanton, intentional, reckless and malicious” behavior, along with “criminal indifference to the obligations it owed to the plaintiffs.”
However, Magers has now amended his complaint to also file suit against CNX Gas Corp. and Columbia Gas Transmission. CNX is the natural gas drilling arm of Consol Energy, the parent company of the local McElroy and Shoemaker coal mines.
The amended complaint states that CNX “drilled shallow gas wells on a tract of land adjacent to the plaintiffs’ property. It further notes that Columbia “has a gas storage field on a tract of land adjacent to plaintiffs’ property.”
Chesapeake officials previously said the company addressed the issues at Magers’ property by collecting water samples. Chesapeake withdrew the water supply from Magers’ home because the company’s test results showed the “methane present in the water sample did not match the gas from our oil and gas operations.”*
The West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection investigated but came to no conclusions about the source of the methane in Mr. Magers’ water well. One thing’s for sure—there is methane in his well and it wasn’t there (so he says) prior to 2009 when drilling began.
Chesapeake says since (according to their test results) it’s not methane from their well contaminating Mr. Magers’ water supply, they want the case against them dismissed, and they want to recoup the money they’ve spent in legal fees defending themselves against a false charge.
We’ll keep an eye on this story as it develops further.
*Wheeling (WV) The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register (Dec 31, 2012) – Magers Now Suing CNX, Columbia
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