We have blogged about the oil boom and the safety effects associated with increased oil production. In an interesting twist, EQT Corporation, one of the largest producers of natural gas in Pennsylvania offered households in Washington County $50,000 in cash if they would agree to release the company from liability. The release was very broad and encompassed health problems and property damage.
As we have discussed previously, there are increased concerns regarding the environmental and health issues associated with fracking. Fracking involves pumping water and other materials under high pressure into a well in order to fracture rock and extract oil and natural gas.
Some of the reported issues with fracking include polluting groundwater, reducing air quality and causing health problems to residents living near wells. While the oil and gas industry has expended millions of dollars into research in an attempt to show that these issues are not a risk, environmental and public health experts are not convinced.
EQT’s attempt to “buy off” future litigation on those issues is concerning. A spokesperson for EQT indicated that the company was merely attempting to address concerns of residents in the area. EQT may be worried about recent litigation in which some residents have been awarded millions of dollars in nuisance claims. In Texas, a jury awarded a Texas couple $3 million after they claimed that an oil and gas company forced them to move away and decreased their property value.
The company has stated that approximately 85% of residents have signed the releases. However, some residents have refused to sign the release citing the vibration from the drilling, decreased air quality and gas fumes.
Most recently, a study in Science magazine found that there is a link between fracking and earthquakes. Professor Katie Keranen of Cornell University who previously worked at the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed the number of quakes in Jones, Oklahoma over the past five years and found an association between fracking and seismic activity. The study cited to a 40- fold increase in seismic activity over the past five years. The researchers also found that there was a connection between fracking and earthquakes in Arkansas, Ohio and Texas.
The oil and gas industry may attempt to curtail the concerns associated with fracking but additional research is demonstrating that there are significant environmental and health problems associated with the activity.