The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced the results of its 16-month investigation into the alleged methane contamination of three private water wells in Franklin Township, Susquehanna County, where the Marcellus Shale formation is being developed by hydraulic fracturing. The DEP tested water from the three water wells and compared it with the chemical make-up of natural gas samples taken from the nearby drilling rigs and also with samples from water wells in the nearby Salt Springs State Park. The testing showed that the methane in the water from the private wells contained a similar isotopic make-up to the samples from the State Park, indicating that the methane in the wells is naturally occurring shallow gas. The DEP concluded that the methane in the private water wells was not production gas from the nearby gas wells being drilled by WPX Energy Inc. WPX has been paying for delivery of replacement water to the owners of the three water wells and has not yet determined if the deliveries will continue. Despite the DEP’s conclusion, the water well owners continue to believe that gas drilling is responsible for the contamination and will move forward with their lawsuit. Manning v. WPX Energy Inc. and The Williams Companies, Inc., No. 3:12-cv-00646 (M.D. Pa. April 9, 2012).


This article was prepared by Barclay Nicholson (bnicholson@fulbright.com or 713 651 3662) from Fulbright’s Energy Practice Group.