Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

How a Fracking Company Tried to Buy Pennsylvania Residents' Approval For $50,000

Energy
How a Fracking Company Tried to Buy Pennsylvania Residents' Approval For $50,000

The health risks of living near a fracking site aren't lost on energy companies who participate in the practice, and neither is the pushback from nearby residents. Still, the earning potential is far too enticing for companies to cave in.

That might be why EQT Corp. attempted to buy approval from the residents of Finleyville, a small town near Pittsburgh where the company is increasing its hold by drilling nearly a dozen new wells. According to an investigation by ProPublica,  the company offered $50,000 in cash to residents on Cardox Road if they absolved of EQT of legal liability for health issues, property damage and the impacts from noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot, air pollution and vibrations.

"I was insulted," Gary Baumgardner, a resident who was offered the money in January, told the nonprofit news organizaiton. "We're being pushed out of our home and they want to insult us with this offer."

Would you absolve a fracking firm of liability for health issues you might experience? That's what some residents did in a small Pennsylvania town. Photo credit: Bob Nilsson

Baumgardner doesn't bother hanging up pictures because of the vibrations. He described his home near EQT's operations as "often not livable." He had air quality monitors installed in his home, and sometimes they flashed bright red. His pregnant daughter eventually received an advisory from her doctor not to live near a fracking site. When Baumgardner complained to EQT, he received "constant dismissals, excuses, delays and broken promises," he said.

EQT's offer is not unlike the nuisance easements offered to residents near airports, landfills and even wind farms. However, Pennsylvania gas lease attorney Doug Clark says such an offer is rare in the oil and gas sector. Clark finds EQT's conditions to be rare, too. For $50,000, the company also wanted liability protection for things it might do in the future, including constructing pipelines, power lines, roads, tanks, ponds, pits, compressor stations, houses and buildings.

"The release is so incredibly broad and such a laundry list," Clark said. "You're releasing for everything including activity that hasn't even occurred yet. It's crazy."

An EQT spokeswoman declined to discuss specifics, but believed that "approximately 85 percent of the residents" that of the property owners who were approached signed their agreements. An early version of the agreement required 30 property owners to sign before cash would be distributed. The company changed that requirement after experiencing resistance. 

Clark doesn't expect many companies to make similar offers because it might tip residents off to the potential harm of their operations. Still, not every Finleyville resident reported a bad experience.

"I cannot complain about the drilling to this point," said Muriel Spencer, a resident who lives about 500 feet from the site.

Spencer was able to negotiate a five-year term on EQT's liability instead of agreeing to the original, indefinite terms.

"[EQT] has been nothing but fair with me," she said.

 

A meteorologist monitors weather in NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction on July 2, 2013 in Riverdale, Maryland. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The Trump White House is now set to appoint two climate deniers to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in one month.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A plastic bag caught in a tree in New Jersey's Palisades Park. James Leynse / Stone / Getty Images

New Jersey is one step closer to passing what environmental advocates say is the strongest anti-plastic legislation in the nation.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Did you know that nearly 30% of adults do, or will, suffer from a sleep condition at some point in their life? Anyone who has experienced disruptions in their sleep is familiar with the havoc that it can wreak on your body and mind. Lack of sleep, for one, can lead to anxiety and lethargy in the short-term. In the long-term, sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Fortunately, there are proven natural supplements that can reduce insomnia and improve quality sleep for the better. CBD oil, in particular, has been scientifically proven to promote relaxing and fulfilling sleep. Best of all, CBD is non-addictive, widely available, and affordable for just about everyone to enjoy. For these very reasons, we have put together a comprehensive guide on the best CBD oil for sleep. Our goal is to provide objective, transparent information about CBD products so you are an informed buyer.

Read More Show Less
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) talks to reporters during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on Sept. 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The House of Representatives passed a sweeping bill to boost clean energy while phasing out the use of coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators that are known pollutants and contribute to the climate crisis, as the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington comforts Marsha Maus, 75, whose home was destroyed during California's deadly 2018 wildfires, on March 11, 2019 in Agoura Hills, California. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

By Governor Jay Inslee

Climate Week this year coincides with clear skies in Washington state for the first time in almost two weeks.

In just a few days in early September, Washington state saw enough acres burned – more than 600,000 – to reach our second-worst fire season on record. Our worst fire season came only five years ago. Wildfires aren't new to the west, but their scope and danger today is unlike anything firefighters have seen. People up and down the West Coast – young and old, in rural areas and in cities – were choking on smoke for days on end, trapped in their homes.

Fires like these are becoming the norm, not the exception.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch