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Gas Industry Worker Whistleblower: Out of Control Gas “Like Niagara Falls Going Upward”

November 23, 2011

DIMOCK TWP. – On a bright fall day in 2008, Scott Ely arrived at the natural gas well a few hundred feet from his home to find work strangely stilled.

His fellow employees of Cabot Oil and Gas Corp.’s drilling subsidiary were watching the only thing moving: a huge plume of gas “like Niagara Falls going upwards” buffeting the drilling rig from below, he remembered.

The gas in the air was sickening.

This extraordinary story, published November 20th in the Times Tribune, tells the tale — or some of it — of Scott Ely. Here he speaks for the first time about the cramps, rashes and headaches his family experienced after Cabot Oil and Gas contaminated their drinking water. If you’ve seen Gasland, the Ely family is the family which, while describing the contamination of their water to documentary filmmaker Josh Fox, only allowed him to film their feet.

That’s because Mr. Ely was working for Cabot at the time. He was uncomfortable being filmed describing any of Cabot’s harmful and criminal behaviors, even while enduring the overwhelming reality of living with contaminated water.

Read the full story here.  A few more excerpts:

Mr. Ely, a GasSearch Drilling Services employee from spring 2008 until mid-2010, is one of more than a dozen Dimock residents suing the company because of what happened next: his family, including three small children, began to get cramps, rashes and headaches. Months after Mr. Ely noted something was not right with his water and first warned his employer to test it, a company representative asked his family to evacuate to a Tunkhannock hotel because dangerous levels of methane seeped into the home with every shower or load of laundry.

Mr. Ely also describes multiple very serious environmental violations, along with intentional cover-ups:

Cabot tried to hide, minimize or ignore at least five diesel spills or their impacts between 2008 and 2009. After an 800-gallon diesel spill in June 2008, a drilling supervisor instructed him to move a reference point hay bale away from a spot where lab tests showed persistently contaminated soil after treatment.

“I said, ‘So you want them to test where there’s no hot dirt?’ ” he recalled. “He said, ‘That’s the idea.’ “

Ely detailed all his allegations to Cabot two years ago, but in the absence of any action on the part of Cabot and in the presence of Cabot’s plan to stop delivering clean water to Ely’s family nine days from now, Mr. Ely felt compelled to speak out.

At one site, Mr. Ely watched a bulldozer operator clear a pad covered in a “big, goopy concoction” of sand and spilled gels and acids by pushing the mess over a bank, he said. State files for the second site show that an inspector from the Department of Environmental Protection discovered an unreported pile of diesel-soaked soil dumped at the edge of a farmer’s field.

Cabot had well-control or casing problems on three wells other than the Gesford 3 site where Mr. Ely saw the plume of shallow gas. A “wild well” specialist from Texas was called to a site on Mr. Ely’s father’s property in late 2008 after a failed valve made it impossible to shut off the spewing well, forcing the family to evacuate overnight.

Read more:

Hats off to Laura Legere, Times Tribune staff writer and one very good reporter.

Action: Mark December 6th in your calendar as a day with potential to stand up for the people of Dimock, whose water buffaloes (the huge containers of water which enable them to shower in, wash dishes with, and drink uncontaminated water) will be removed on November 30th. More details to come.

One Comment
  1. November 23, 2011 1:56 pm

    Three pharmaceutical executives were recently sentenced to time in prison for intentionally violating ethics rules and showing a “knowing disregard” for the safety of patients. In the past, companies have been fined while CEOs continue to receive bonuses and huge salaries, so prosectors have turned to holding the executives themselves responsible.

    tt’s time for this to happen in the natural gas industry as well. In companies that have a demonstrated pattern of disregard for safety regulations, CEOs should go to jail. The story above is an excellent case of “reckless endangerment”, which is a criminal act, and should be prosecuted as one.

    If we went into the gas industry executives’ neighborhoods and poisoned their water, we’d be doing time. It’s time for the CEOs themselves to be held accountable, and it looks like prosectors in PA are beginning to see that. Otherwise, the companies will continue to do whatever is fastest and cheapest, and consider fines and penalties as part of the cost of doing business. That has to change.

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