Exxon has been hit with criminal charges from the state of Pennsylvania for dumping nearly 60,000 gallons of wastewater from fracking wells into the environment without treating it. The company admits that it did so, but says it wasn’t negligent and therefore did not commit a crime.
Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest energy company, was charged with illegally dumping more than 50,000 gallons (189,000 liters) of wastewater at a shale-gas drilling site in Pennsylvania.
Exxon unit XTO Energy Inc. discharged the water from waste tanks at the Marquandt well site in Lycoming County in 2010, according to a statement on the website of Pennsylvania’s attorney general. The pollution was found during an unannounced visit by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection…
“Criminal charges are unwarranted and legally baseless,” the XTO unit said yesterday in a statement posted on its website. “There was no intentional, reckless or negligent misconduct by XTO.”…“Charging XTO under these circumstances could discourage good environmental practices,” the company said in its statement. “This action tells oil and gas operators that setting up infrastructure to recycle produced water exposes them to the risk of significant legal and financial penalties should a small release occur.”
The company said it “acted quickly” to clean up the spill and there was “no lasting environmental impact,” according to the statement.
This is a huge problem with fracking for natural gas and tar sands oil extraction. Both processes use huge amounts of water that comes out highly contaminated and very difficult to reclaim for any other use. And fracking companies in particular have bought off legislators and regulators in many states and at the federal level to protect the formula for the liquids they use in the process, leaving people (and even the government) in many states completely unaware of what is being leaked, deliberately or not.
With access to clean water being an inevitable and growing problem over the next few decades, the use of so much of it for these purposes needs much closer scrutiny.