Fracking: Legal Issues

New Lawsuit Filed in Fracking Country, Zeller Jr., Tom , Green |, (2010)


More than a dozen families in Susquehanna County, Pa., filed a lawsuit late Tuesday against the Southwestern Energy Production Company, asserting that a succession of “releases, spills and discharges of combustible gases, hazardous chemicals and industrial wastes” from the company’s nearby drilling sites had contaminated their drinking water and made them sick.

In simpler terms, it’s the latest salvo against hydraulic fracturing — a long-used and highly contentious drilling technique that has come under more intense scrutiny as energy prospectors descend on newly accessible gas deposits under vast areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New York.

It’s not the first such lawsuit, and it comes amid a flurry of other legal, regulatory and political maneuvering around the topic at the local, state and federal levels...

...A draft of the most recent lawsuit was provided by the law firm representing the Susquehanna residents.

Northeast Ohio faction fights uphill battle over oil and gas well drilling laws |, Marshall, Aaron , The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, (2009)

"A faction of Northeast Ohio residents and lawmakers fighting for stricter regulations on oil and gas well drilling are getting outmuscled in the Ohio Senate and are turning their attention to the House.  The state's powerful oil and gas industry, Gov. Ted Strickland's administration and lawmakers from outside greater Cleveland have teamed up to produce a set of rules its critics say don't do enough to protect homeowners living near wells."

Owning the Center of the Earth, Sprankling, J. G. , UCLA Law Review, Volume 55, Issue 4, p.979 - 1040, (2008)


How far below the earth’s surface do property rights extend? The conventional wisdom is that a landowner holds title to everything between the surface and the center of the earth. This article is the first legal scholarship to challenge the traditional view.


Graphic: Discover Magazine

It demonstrates that the “center of the earth” theory is poetic hyperbole, not binding law. Broadly speaking, the deeper the disputed region, the less likely courts are to recognize the surface owner’s title.

The emergence of new technologies for use of the deep subsurface—such as heat mining and carbon sequestration, both of which may help mitigate global climate change—requires that we develop a new model of subsurface ownership.

Accordingly, this article proposes and evaluates four alternative approaches to subsurface property rights. The preferred model would recognize the surface owner’s title for only 1000 feet downward. If adopted, this approach would eliminate over 99 percent of the supposed real property ownership in the United States.

See: Probe Earth's Interior with Advanced Radiation Sources

See: The Deep Hot Biosphere : The Myth of Fossil Fuels

See: Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI)

See: Cornell University Law School - 2011 Energy Conference

Penn State Law - Natural Gas Exploration Online Resources, Penn State , Penn State Law - The Dickinson School of Law, (2010)

Penn State Dickinson School of Law.  2009.

Natural Gas Exploration--Online Resources--Legal Blogs--Select Penn State Publications--Natural Gas Leasing Information--General Information Relating to Natural Gas Industry--Publications Relating Specifically to Barnett Shale.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Fact Sheet:Landowners and Oil and Gas Leases in Pennsylvania, Answers to questions frequently asked by landowners about oil and gas leases and drilling., Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Protection(DEP) , (2010)


"Answers to questions frequently asked by landowners about oil and gas leases and drilling." Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Protection.

For more information, visit DEP’s Web site at  Keyword: “Oil and Gas.”

Pennsylvania Gas Pipeline Challenged, Earthjustice , Earthjustice, (2011)



Earthjustice is representing the Sierra Club, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability and the Lycoming County-based Coalition for Responsible Growth and Resource Conservation as proposed interveners in a proceeding before the Federal [Energy] Regulatory Commission (FERC), which has been asked to expedite approval of a proposed pipeline that would cut through portions of northeastern Pennsylvania. The groups are calling on federal regulators to thoroughly review the cumulative environmental impacts of the project before any decision is made.

See press release (Dec. 20. 2010): Groups Move to Intervene in PA Pipeline Project

Pennsylvania lawsuit says drilling polluted water, Hurdle, Jon , Reuters, (2009)


Pennsylvania lawsuit says drilling polluted water

A Pennsylvania landowner is suing an energy company for polluting his soil and water in an attempt to link a natural gas drilling technique with environmental contamination.

George Zimmermann, the owner of 480 acres in Washington County, southwest Pennsylvania, says Atlas Energy Inc. ruined his land with toxic chemicals used in or released there by hydraulic fracturing.

(Editing by Mark Egan and Philip Barbara)

See: Benzene Leukemia Law Blog. Burke and Eisner.  PA Suit Claims Drilling Causing Water Contamination

Pollution in Your Community, Scorecard , Scorecard, (2010)


Get an in-depth pollution report for your county, covering air, water, chemicals, and more. Enter your zip code for local information.

Take Action: Oppose EPA's efforts to weaken pollution reporting

Who are the top polluters in the U.S.?

We think American citizens have a right to know what toxic chemicals are being released into their communities. But the EPA recently proposed to limit the information that companies are required to disclose about the hazardous chemicals they release into our environment.

By reducing the reporting requirements of its Toxics Release Inventory program, the EPA would take away an important tool for protecting public health and reducing industrial pollution.

Supported by Green Media Toolshed.

See: Big Polluters Freed from Environmental Oversight by Stimulus - The Center for Public Integrity

See: Tox Town - Home Page - Environmental health concerns and toxic chemicals where you live, work and play.

Priscilla Summers v. Earth Island Institute Supreme Court Decision : ACOEL, Garrett, Theodore , American College of Environmental Lawyers (ACOEL), (2009)


In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that environmentalists' lacked standing to challenge a Forest Service regulation limiting public involvement in timber sales decisions. Priscilla Summers v. Earth Island Institute, et al.,__U.S.__(No. 07-463, March 3, 2009).

The decision found that respondents’ argument that they have standing because they suffered procedural injuryi.e., they have been denied the ability to file comments on some Forest Service actionsfails because such a deprivation without some concrete interest affected thereby is insufficient to create Article III standing.

Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, stated "Accepting an intention to visit the National Forests as adequate to confer standing to challenge any Government action affecting any portion of those forests would be tantamount to eliminating the requirement of concrete, particularized injury in fact."

The following is a link to the Court's opinion:

Red Lodge Clearinghouse - Oil and Gas Resource Development, Red Lodge Clearinghouse , Red Lodge Clearinghouse: Inspiring Natural Resources Collaboration...and More, (2010)


The mission of the Red Lodge Clearinghouse is to support, connect and inform the partners of collaborative efforts and others addressing natural resource challenges in their community.

This blog features a page on Oil and Gas Resource Development that has many links to primary legal documents.  It is based in the U.S. Western States.

Here is a link to their Staff listing: