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Ely v. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.

United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
38 F. Supp.3d 518 (2014)


Facts

Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (Cabot) (defendant) was a natural-gas driller that used the hydraulic fracturing method, also known as fracking. Nolen Scott Ely (plaintiff) and 43 others filed suit to recover damages for injuries and property damage they claimed they suffered as a result of Cabot’s drilling. Ely contended that natural-gas drilling and fracking constituted abnormally dangerous activities and therefore should be subject to strict liability. At trial, Ely presented expert testimony that lack of care in fracking could cause water contamination. Ely also claimed that fracking was novel activity in the area until ten years prior. Additionally, Ely contended that Cabot’s drilling occurred too close to the community’s water resources, though Ely acknowledged that Cabot complied with all permitting requirements. Cabot presented numerous reports showing that fracking did not affect water quality and was not otherwise dangerous if due care was exercised. Evidence was also presented that although fracking began only 10 years prior, it quickly gained widespread adoption. Additionally, the commercial exploitation of oil and gas in the state had existed for over a century. The case was heard by the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Jones, J.)

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