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One of the newest ways to access local energy resources has become a growing area of environmental liability. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of releasing underground gases through drilling. While oil and gas companies have embraced this new process, property owners and the public are concerned about potential injuries from contaminated water and air.
Fracking Impacts the Surrounding Water and Air
Fracking is a relatively new energy extraction process. Some public interest groups claim that the chemicals used can contaminate groundwater and drinking water, while released gases can pollute the air. The connection between fracking and pollution is still under debate, since drilling companies have claimed trade secret protection for the chemical mixtures that they use in the process. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has published a master list of common chemicals used by drilling companies in that state, which includes many regulated substances that are known to cause cancer. This type of list can form the basis of liability.
Fracking Is Largely Unregulated
One public concern driving litigation concerns fracking as an unregulated activity. Federal law exempts fracking from the groundwater and drinking water controls that apply to other types of underground drilling. New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas have significant fracking industries and are seriously considering state regulation.
Property Owners Can be Held Responsible
Public concerns about fracking tend to center around air and water pollution by gases and chemicals migrating to the surface and the improper handling of waste. Since the fracking process is not regulated, it may be hard to hold the drilling companies responsible for the results of the process, especially when injuries to the public may not become obvious for 20 or 30 years. Owners of property where fracking is taking place should be concerned with this risk, since the property owner is responsible for cleanup of contamination under federal law – even if the owner was not responsible for the damage.
The Scope of Liability for Fracking Is Still Undetermined
Courts are in the process of deciding fracking cases that will set the standard of care for future lawsuits. One of the first lawsuits involving fracking was a New York case where the plaintiff sued for loss of property value due to fracking, not personal injury. In Pennsylvania, a case was filed where fracking is blamed for contaminating groundwater that resulted in an injury to a child.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding personal injuries caused by the new extraction technology called fracking is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a personal injury lawyer.