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Attorney General Files Criminal Charges Against Shale Driller

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s decision to prosecute a major Marcellus Shale natural-gas driller for a 2010 wastewater spill on Tuesday has taken over headlines throughout the state this week.

Kane’s office announced charges Tuesday against XTO Energy Inc. for discharging more than 50,000 gallons of toxic wastewater from storage tanks at a gas-well site in Lycoming County. XTO in July settled federal civil charges over the incident by agreeing to pay a $100,000 fine and deploy a plan to improve wastewater-management practices. The consent decree included no admissions of liability.
Environmentalists are praising the prosecution of XTO Energy Inc. as a positive sign the state will no longer give the industry “soft treatment.”  Meanwhile, the Marcellus Shale Coalition and State Chamber of Commerce have said the prosecution of a company for what they called an inadvertent spill creates a hostile business environment that will discourage investment in the Commonwealth.  And the State Chamber of Business and Industry said the charges send “a chilling message to all businesses looking to locate in Pennsylvania that they could be held criminally liable in the event of an unintentional spill by a contractor that resulted in no injury to humans or wildlife and that had no lasting impacts on the environment.”
Kane’s office said it did not need to prove intent to prosecute the company for crimes. XTO is charged with five counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law and three counts of unlawful conduct under the Solid Waste Management Act. XTO is the first Marcellus Shale production company to face criminal charges. More…