The U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency are suing a subsidiary of Exxon, known as EXTO Energy, for allowing its hydraulic fracturing operations to contaminate water supplies in Pennsylvania. Specifically, the filed complaint accuses EXTO Energy of polluting water with flowback fluid and wastewater byproduct. According to the complaint, “flowback fluid and produced fluid contain brine, proppant, hydraulic fracturing chemicals, dissolved solids, heavy metals and radionuclides.”
This comes days after the group agreed to pay $20 million to improve management of wastewater in natural gas operations.
This complaint was filed at the same time the Department of Energy reported, “no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site.” This is according to a federal study on hydraulic fracturing.
Geologist Richard Hammack argues the chemicals used in fracking to free gas trapped deep below ground, stayed thousands of feet deep and never reached the level of drinking water. In fact, the report concludes that the potentially dangerous chemicals were more than a mile below even the monitoring zone at 5,000 feet beneath the earth’s surface.
Though these initial results were preliminary, it is unclear what new evidence the Department of Justice is using to back its complaint against the natural gas group.
The federal complaint seeks $37,500 per day in civil penalties since January of 2009 as well as an injunction for violations against the Clean Water Act.