A gas driller that was targeted with allegations that it polluted residential water wells in Pennsylvania has filed a $5 million lawsuit against a Pennsylvania resident and his lawyers, asserting they tried to extort the company through a frivolous lawsuit.
Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. said Dimock resident Ray Kemble and his lawyers sought to harass and extort the Houston-based driller, attract media attention and "poison" the community by recycling "stale, settled claims" against the company.
"Cabot will protect its rights and pursue justice against those who irresponsibly and maliciously abuse the legal system," George Stark, the Houston-based driller's director of external affairs, said in a statement Tuesday.
Cabot's suit, filed Monday in Susquehanna County Court, takes issue with a federal lawsuit that Kemble and his lawyers filed in April but withdrew two months later. That suit accused Cabot of continuing to pollute Kemble's water supply.
The company said the claims in Kemble's suit were the subject of a 2012 settlement between Cabot and dozens of Dimock residents — including Kemble — and were barred by the statute of limitations. Cabot's suit also alleged Kemble had breached the 2012 settlement by publicly talking about the company.
Kemble, who's long been one of Pennsylvania's most visible and outspoken anti-drilling activists, did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday. Nor did the attorneys named as defendants in the suit, Charles Speer of the Speer Law Firm in Kansas City, Missouri, and Edward Ciarimboli and Clancy Boylan of Fellerman & Ciarimboli, which has offices in Philadelphia and northeastern Pennsylvania.
Cabot's suit is the latest sign of a rekindling battle in Dimock, the small village that became ground zero in the national debate over drilling and fracking after residents accused Cabot of polluting the water nearly a decade ago. The community was featured in the Emmy-winning 2010 documentary "Gasland," which showed residents lighting their tap water on fire. Cabot said the methane in their water was naturally occurring.
As recently as last week, Kemble told The Associated Press that his water "burns the back of your throat, makes you gag, makes you want to puke," and said it got worse after Cabot fracked three wells near his house. Fracking is a method that uses huge amounts of pressurized water, along with sand and chemicals, to extract oil and natural gas from rock formations deep underground.
Scientists from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal public health agency, were at Kemble's house and two dozen other hosues last week to test the water.
Cabot, one of the largest and most successful drillers in Pennsylvania, the nation's No. 2 gas-producing state, says there's no threat to human health or the environment in Dimock.