Jury Awards 2 Couples $4.2M Over Fracking Pollution
Couples argued methane reached water wells in Pennsylvania
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2016 9:50 AM CST
Monica Marta-Ely and Nolen Scott Ely leave a courthouse in downtown Scranton, Pa.   (Butch Comegys / The Times & Tribune via AP)
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(Newser) – It was worth the wait: Two Pennsylvania couples were awarded $4.2 million on Thursday, more than six years after first accusing Cabot Oil & Gas of contaminating their well water. Originally among a group of 44 Susquehanna County residents who sued Cabot in 2009, these two couples—Nolen Scott Ely and Monica Marta-Ely and Raymond and Victoria Hubert—refused to settle in 2012, reports the Scranton Times-Tribune. After a 14-day trial in which the couples argued Cabot negligently drilled two natural-gas wells that contaminated their water wells with methane, a federal jury agreed, awarding $2.6 million to the Elys and $1.4 million to the Huberts. Each of their children, a total of four, were awarded $50,000 over the fracking. "It wasn't about the money," Nolen Scott Ely says. "We were voicing ourselves and standing up for our rights." Cabot plans to appeal.

A state investigation that started in 2009 found Cabot responsible for contaminating 18 water supplies in Dimock Township, where residents complained that brown water would cause a lit match to burst into flame, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Oh my God! They heard! They heard!” said the couples' attorney, Leslie Lewis, after the verdict. Cabot attorney Jeremy Mercer says that there was no evidence to suggest anything but naturally occurring gas reached the couples' wells and that the water problems started before Cabot began drilling nearby. He also accused Lewis of mentioning evidence that was supposed to have been excluded. "Without plaintiffs' counsel's conduct, the evidence in this case did not allow for a jury to reach the verdict it did," he says. (Fracking is likely causing daily earthquakes in Oklahoma.)