Thursday, July 03, 2014

Big gas company offers Pennsylvania residents $50,000 not to sue for current or future problems

One company has found a way to avoid lawsuits stemming from complaints about noise and air quality from fracking practices. EQT Corporation offered residents living near a gas well in Washington County, Pennsylvania $50,000 "if they would agree to release the company from any legal liability, for current operations as well as those to be carried out in the future," Naveena Sadasivam reports for ProPublica. "It covered potential health problems and property damage, and gave the company blanket protection from any kind of claim over noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot, air pollution or vibrations." (ProPublica photo: Oil and gas well pad in Washington County)

"The agreement also defined the company's operations as not only including drilling activity but the construction of pipelines, power lines, roads, tanks, ponds, pits, compressor stations, houses and buildings," Sadasivam writes. Doug Clark, a gas-lease attorney in Pennsylvania who mainly represents landowners, told Sadasivam, "The release is so incredibly broad and such a laundry list. You're releasing for everything including activity that hasn't even occurred yet. It's crazy."

While these type of agreements are common in areas around airports, wind farms and landfills, it's rare for one to include oil and gas wells, Sadasivam writes. Clark told her, "This is only the second time I've seen one. They're absolutely not common at all."

EQT said about 85 percent of residents signed agreements "but some of the residents have refused to negotiate with the company," Sadasivam writes.  Homeowner Gary Baumgardner, who was approached by EQT with the offer in January, told her, "We're being pushed out of our home and they want to insult us with this offer." (Read more)

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