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Dimock residents offered settlement

Cabot accused of “dirty trick”

By FRITZ MAYER

DIMOCK TOWNSHIP, PA — Some of the residents of Dimock whose well water has been contaminated are very pleased with the outcome; others accuse the gas drilling company of getting away with a criminal act.

On December 16, the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that it had reached a deal with Cabot Oil & Gas, whereby Cabot would pay $4.1 million to the owners of 19 homes that had suffered the contamination. Each property owner would get about twice the amount of the value of his or her home.

The agreement, worked out without input from the 14 families who are suing Cabot, would be in place of an order by the DEP that Cabot pay about $12.1 million to build a water line to the affected homes from a municipal water system.

The agreement also requires that Cabot install whole-house gas mitigation systems in the affected homes.

And, according to a press release from the DEP, “Cabot also will pay DEP $500,000 to offset the state’s expense of investigating the stray gas migration cases that have plagued Dimock residents for nearly two years.”

Some affected residents are pleased with the outcome because it takes the cost of paying for the fix away from the taxpayers. Cabot had been refusing to pay for the water system, and initially taxpayers would have had to bear the burden until the DEP could force Cabot to pay in court.

Another concern for DEP secretary John Hanger was that with gas-friendly Governor-Elect Tom Corbett getting set to take office in January, there was a possibility that the matter would not be as aggressively pursued as it has been under Governor Ed Rendell.

But not everyone thinks it’s such a good deal. Craig Sautner, a Dimock resident who has been living with contaminated water for more than two years, said it lets Cabot off the hook for cleaning up the aquifer that was contaminated by its drilling. He also accused Cabot of pulling a dirty trick. The money to the homeowners won’t be coming for a few months or so, and Cabot reportedly told some homeowners that if they dropped their lawsuit against the company, and if they signed away rights to any future royalties, they could receive the money immediately.

Sautner said none of the 14 families involved in the lawsuit took the offer of early money, and all retained the right to pursue the lawsuit, which will move forward.

Sautner said, however, that he thought it was unlikely that the aquifer could ever be repaired, and no bank would provide mortgages for those homes; therefore the houses would never be sold. He said, “Dimock is going to become a ghost town, that’s what’s going to happen.”