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Impacted Families Settle With Gas Giant For $1.6M Without Gag Order

June 25, 2012

In what may be the first fracking contamination settlement signed without a gag order, Chesapeake Energy has agreed to pay three Bradford County families with polluted water wells $1.6 million.  The families bravely refused to sign the agreement Chesapeake sought to keep the facts of the case under wraps.

The families, neighbors on Paradise Road, on Wells Mountain, sued Chesapeake after methane contaminated their houses and chemicals poisoned their water, forcing them from their homes.  The families’ lawyers and experts established during the litigation that the contamination stemmed from a botched cement job on a nearby Chesapeake gas drilling well, a disturbingly common problem affecting one out of every sixteen drilling wells in Pennsylvania.

Protecting Our Waters spoke with Jared McMicken, whose family of four has been wrenched from the house they built and is now looking for land elsewhere in the Wyalusing area.  His family had to evacuate their house, as methane was leaking into it.  A methane leak, of course, creates the danger of explosions.  The McMicken family’s water was bubbling like seltzer.  The McMickens and their neighbors join the growing ranks of fracking refugees.

“We tried everything to work with them,” McMicken explains of Chesapeake, “but they gave us the cold shoulder.”  When the McMickens and their neighbors brought Chesapeake to court, Chesapeake folded.  “They had no defense.  They knew they screwed up, they just wanted to get out of it.”

Chesapeake unsurprisingly denies all wrongdoing, stating that it had not conducted pre-drilling tests of the water to see if there was contamination already, thereby implying that the traumatic experiences of those on Paradise Road just coincidentally occurred after Chesapeake started fracking next door.  This is a familiar refrain.  But McMicken himself debunked that, having had the water tested before the drilling began and finding no problems with it then.

Through two years of contamination and dislocation, Chesapeake has never apologized to the McMickens.  And while the settlement may allow the McMicken family to move to uncontaminated land, McMicken is worried about the families living downriver from the contamination.  Todd O’Malley, a lawyer representing two of the Paradise Road families, stressed the importance of the families’ refusal to bow to Chesapeake’s pressure to sign a nondisclosure agreement, allowing the story of the McMickens and their neighbors to be told.  Justice will prevail, he predicted, “when Chesapeake realizes people will take them to the mat.”

11 Comments
  1. Thelma permalink
    June 26, 2012 1:54 am

    The money will never get back clean water

  2. geminijlw permalink
    June 26, 2012 6:04 am

    And 1 in every 16 fail, they want to put 60,000 wells in Pa. where will we get our water?

    • Terry Fillow permalink
      February 9, 2013 9:19 pm

      You wont! They have to be stopped!

  3. June 26, 2012 3:49 pm

    In Ireland they have just started compulsory registration of domestic waste water systems so that they can be inspected. The website is Protect Our Water – so your blog might be getting a few visits from Irish homeowners …

  4. unreceivedogma permalink
    June 27, 2012 4:19 pm

    At $500K per family which includes the purchase price of their homes, this is hardly just compensation for all they have been through. At least they can put this behind them.

    geminijlw, 1 in 16 fail immediately. 6 in 10 fail within 30 years.

  5. August 10, 2012 8:08 am

    I am not begrudging the attorneys who take on these cases, just asking what % of the $1.6 million do they get?
    If the case was taken on contingency, meaning the lawyers only get paid if they win, I think the % lawyers get is around 35-40%. That’s a big chunk of change out of the $1.6 million, which then, of course, needs to be split among the 3 families. I’m thinking each family gets a little more than $300,000. Aubrey McClendon, big kahuna @ Chesapeake, probably spends more than that in a week.

    • Terry Fillow permalink
      February 9, 2013 9:24 pm

      Sounds like they are lucky to be getting anything. McMicken was lucky to have had his water tested. I am really surprised more people did not do that before fracking started around them.

  6. Mel Packer permalink
    August 10, 2012 9:28 pm

    I am happy for the families if they are satisfied with their settlement, and do not begrudge the attorney’s part of the award. It’s an important settlement simply because those families were able to hold out against non-disclosure statements which should allow them to testify for others, speak at events, and tell their story to the world. On the other hand, Chesapeake can still deny any proof that they ever contaminated any wells as this settlement from them comes with the understanding that Chesapeake is not formally admitting responsibility and will now continue to tout the frackers line of “no proven cases of contamination. I’m sorry the families did not get more as their final award of about 300K is hardly going to enable them to start new lives in new surroundings. But the way things are going for Chesapeake, my hunch is it might not be around much longer under that name but instead under new owner. It’s stock value continues to decline and now the Justice Dept is, apparently, getting close to criminal indictments for anti-trust activity with Encana, price rigging on leases. Aubrey Mclendon belongs in jail.
    Mel Packer

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