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Natural gas company responsible for polluting water in Susquehanna County

Coterra Energy entered a plea to Prohibition Against Discharge of Industrial Wastes, a violation of the Clean Streams Law.
Credit: WNEP

MONTROSE, Pa. — A natural gas drilling company was in court in Susquehanna County on Tuesday to accept responsibility for polluting water in the area.

The state attorney general's office filed more than a dozen charges against the former Cabot Oil & Gas Company, now Coterra Energy, back in 2020.

On Tuesday, Coterra accepted responsibility for the years of pollution.

Coterra entered a plea to Prohibition Against Discharge of Industrial Wastes, a violation of the Clean Streams Law.

A grand jury investigation found that Cabot's fracking activities were responsible for polluting well water in the Dimock area of Susquehanna County.

Fracking is the drilling process by which water and chemicals are forced into the ground. Under pressure, the fluids are forced underground to crack rocks and release natural gas.

Cabot started fracking there more than 15 years ago. Complaints about how fracking was affecting well water started not long after.

One of those complaints came in 2009 from a woman whose drinking well exploded.

Under the plea agreement, the company must pay a $444,000 fine to the Pennsylvania DEP. The company must also pay $16.29 million for the construction of a new public water supply to be built by Pennsylvania American Water. While that is being built, Coterra will have to pay 75 years of water bills for the impacted homeowners. This money will also be used to provide treatment systems to treat the homeowners’ water supplies and bottled water until the water line is complete.

"The residents of Dimock serve as a stark reminder that when big corporations are not held accountable, then the people suffer, and our small towns across this Commonwealth and across this nation get hurt," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

"I drive a Jeep. A lot of my neighbors drive trucks and cars, and they all run on gas. We don't have any cute little electric vehicles that are running around Dimock. We heat our home with propane, we cook with gas, but it should not be in people's water," said Dimock resident Victoria Switzer.

"And they're willing to admit guilt that they have contaminated the waters of the commonwealth, particularly in the Dimock area, which has been contended and asserted since 2008," said anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins.

The attorneys representing Coterra Energy declined to offer a statement.

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