by Emily Wurth
Update (December 13, 2022): After Coterra (formerly Cabot Oil and Gas) pleaded no contest for contaminating Dimock’s drinking water, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection allowed Coterra to resume drilling operations in the town after a 12-year moratorium. This outrageous agreement allows a polluting corporation to resume its dangerous operations, even as the town still waits for a permanent solution to its fracking-caused water crisis. We are calling on Governor-elect Josh Shapiro to address this betrayal as soon as he steps into office in January.
Over a decade ago, a small town in northeast Pennsylvania became the focal point for the anti-fracking movement. Soon after the frackers came to town, the residents of Dimock noticed that their water was no longer safe to drink. Cabot Oil & Gas, now owned by Coterra, denied responsibility. Meanwhile, state and federal regulators did little to help residents.
It took 14 years, but this week brought some justice for those on the frontlines of this fracking nightmare.
After a grand jury investigation, Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed 15 criminal charges against Cabot in 2020. This week, the company pleaded no contest in Susquehanna County Court for contaminating the water in Dimock. It will now pay $16.2 million for the construction of water infrastructure for the affected residents. It will also pay their water bills for the next 75 years.
The resolution of this case underscores what we have known for 14 years: Despite all their denials, Cabot Oil & Gas contaminated this community’s water. The outcome is welcome news for those of us who watched elected officials and government agencies essentially abandon this community for years.
Neighbors Join Neighbors Against Fracking Giants
Throughout it all, we witnessed the bravery and persistence of Dimock residents — especially Ray Kemble, who stood up to the oil and gas industry while living in a home without safe water.
He wasn’t alone; Ray had the help of longtime ally Craig Stevens and other residents. With the financial support of non-profit organizations, including Food & Water Watch, they purchased a truck to haul water from the nearby local water system to the families in Dimock.
They also knew that what the reckless fracking industry did to Dimock could happen elsewhere. Ray and his neighbors were the canaries in the coal mine. They traveled around the country and the world to warn others that fracking posed serious risks to their water, health, and way of life.
During their travels, they carried their jugs of brown contaminated water, giving people a glimpse of the consequences of fracking. They went to state capitols in New York and Maryland to join the ultimately successful campaigns to ban fracking in those states. They took elected officials and journalists from around the country on tours of Dimock, showing them what fracking had wrought in their community.
Dimock’s Anti-Fracking Heroes Inspired a Global Movement
Many of us are relieved that the residents who have suffered far too much for far too long will finally get some reprieve. But it is nowhere near what they are owed.
At the same time, other communities continue to suffer harms from fracking in their neighborhoods. And Coterra remains the most active fracking company in the state of Pennsylvania.
However, this fight showed how communities can win with determined resistance. New York and Maryland’s fracking bans are, in many ways, the direct result of the mobilization of support for Dimock.
Since the anti-fracking movement began in Dimock and other frontline communities, governments worldwide have begun pushing to end fracking. Along with a few U.S. states and municipalities, Germany, France, Spain and other countries have banned fracking.
The Fight Against Fracking is Far From Over
Thanks to grassroots organizing in western Pennsylvania and around the country, we know that neighbors can take on this industry and win. Just look at the successful campaign to ban fracking in the parks of Allegheny County.
The global anti-fracking movement owes an enormous debt to the dedicated, resilient residents of Dimock. And after this week’s victory, we look forward to all the victories to come.
The verdict in Dimock makes it clearer than ever — we need an end to fracking, now. Spread the word!